Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mr. Beer Home Brewery

I won't be able to make any reviews or long updates for a little while because of other commitments, but I just wanted to give a shout-out to my bro, Justin, for hooking me up with a home brewing kit for my birthday. Everyone say hi to the Mr. Beer Home Brewery.

This will hopefully give me some practice on some simple recipes and give me some experience before I move to the big boys, which might not be for a while. Batches are made in 2 gallons at a time, and the kit includes the plastic fermenting keg in the picture, a hopped malt mix, some "booster", yeast, some cleanser, plastic bottle caps, and a brewing handbook. I already went ahead and splurged on some glass bottles and bottle capper, some nifty utensils, more cleanser, and a couple more mixes. Anybody else have experience with this kit? This will be a good indicator: if I fail at making beer with this, I'm just not born to brew. Thanks again, Justin!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Victory Wild Devil

This past weekend, I was able to make a trip down to the Foodery on 2nd and Poplar in Philadelphia. While perusing the selection in the various fridges, Victory's Wild Devil caught my eye. Hop Devil was one of the beers that really opened my eyes to craft brewed beers, so I figured I'd give this one a try:

Look: Pours a cloudy amber with about a thumb of off-white head. The color was reminiscent of Hop Devil, but a bit lighter.

Smell: The aroma was very light and had more Belgian spices than hops. This came as a surprise as the description on the bottle had Hop Devil in the first sentence. There was certainly a citrus and hops aroma, but very very subtle.

Taste: Crisp, light, and refreshing, which definitely played off of the smell. I was hoping for a nice juxtaposition of Belgian Spice and fruitiness to a strong hoppiness, but it just wasn't there. The Belgian tendencies of Wild Devil were definitely at the forefront, and greatly outweighed the hops.

Mouthfeel: It starts off tingly and crisp, and ends extremely smooth.

Drinkability: It is a very refreshing (summer-type) hybrid. It has a pleasant taste, and is definitely a nice brew. But again, when reading Devil in the name and having Hop Devil in the description, I expected so much more hops in the flavor. 6.7% makes it very drinkable for a nice session. 7/10 B

Label: 3.5/5 German flag colors in the background is a nice touch, but it seems more of a rehash of the old Hop Devil labels.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

News & Notes

Sorry, no beer review tonight since I'm packing in preparation for House Party, although I am drinking a Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale. I will end up reviewing this next week because damn is it good! Some news and notes about the blog, the bloggers, and whatever I feel like rambling about.
  • We are joining the 20th century by finally adding a contact email at the bottom of the page, so feel free to drop us a line with any comments/suggestions/death threats. Also, we are jumping into the 21st century by setting up some Twitter thing so you can see our tweets (twits? twats?) while we are at a beer fest or something. We'll add that link once my laziness goes away.
  • You won't be hearing much from Hophead Alex for a while as his job has shipped him off to Guam this morning, unless he happens to review some filtered donkey piss he drank off of some dead hooker (kidding, sorta). We wish him well and hope he returns in one piece and STD free.
  • Based on some inspirational comments from a friend, I might be doing a special review either Sunday night or sometime early next week. When you see it, you'll know why its special.
  • Hophead Ryan was able to make it to one of the bars in Philly tonight for Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA Simul-Cask. Initial reaction: "Dude, 75 minute is so fresh, its amazing!" Maybe he will write more about his experience later.
  • American Craft Beer Festival is coming relatively soon (June 19-20) and we are getting plans together for another adventure to Boston. Let us know if you'll be in the area or attending.
  • Lastly, we are starting to get everything ready for our homebrewing experience. We will probably do a little less beer reviewing then, but we will keep it updated with our brewing exploits. It should be a hoot.
Alright, that's enough for now, I'm getting tired and I still need to get my packing done. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale (2009)

Ah yes, Bigfoot, definitely a Hophead classic. Lucky for us, they put out a new release every year, so we get to compare it from one year to the next. Also, since it is a barleywine, aging these bad boys and revisiting them at a future date is a great exercise as well. I'll be doing the former of this just recently released beer.
Appearance: The pour is a dark rich amber/maroon color with the skinniest of heads that doesn't last very long, and even though the color is pretty dark, it is relatively easy to make out shapes on the other side.

Smell: A deep, rich smell greets the nose with a combination of caramel/sweet malts with a hint of fruity hops, an awesome collaboration, excited to drink it.

Taste: Wow, a real mix of caramel and fruit, the hops are still present because it is so fresh, but they definitely give way to the malts which give this beer its soul, bitter and sweet at the same time, with an aftertaste that makes you crave for more.

Mouthfeel: Little to no carbonation, typical in your barleywine style, not overly thick, relatively smooth, coats the tongue and the back of your mouth, a little alcohol kick to let you know its still alive.

Drinkability: Plain and simple: if you see a six pack of Bigfoot (or a case for you PA folks who don't have access to such luxuries), grab it. If you love barleywines, this might be your standard, and if you are being introduced to them for the first time, you might be hard pressed to find one that beats it. There is a bit of an alcohol aftertaste that may prevent you from drinking more than one a night, but that's understandable, treat it as a nightcap since its at 9.6% abv. If you've read the blog before, you might know the Fresh Hop Harvest is my favorite beer coming from Sierra Nevada, but this is a close second. If you are lucky to have a friend who happens to have some aged Bigfoots (I'm looking at you, Jimbo), try those as well, you are in for a treat. I give it a 9/10.

Glass type: Chimay goblet
Serving type: bottle

Boulder Mojo India Pale Ale

In continuing our run-up to House Party '09, a couple of us have had this beer before but were too lazy to write down our thoughts.

Appearance: An aggressive pour brings about a finger of head with a light orange color, seemsa little too light compared to other IPAs, the head doesn't have the best lacing, but it's there, good amount of carbonation rising.

Smell: A good floral hop aroma with hints of citrus, maybe even some grapefruit?, sweet malts dance around in the background, very good combination of smells makes it inviting to drink.

Taste: Well balanced hop and malt flavor combo where the hops are a little more spicey than the smell gives off, then transititon to a rich sweet malt taste, then back to a hoppy aftertaste, the switching back and forth makes it enjoyable, unique, and memorable.

Mouthfeel: Perfect carbonation, light but not watery, smooth, decent body, coats the mouth on the way down.

Drinkability: This brew is very easy to drink, especially compared to other IPAs and beers in general that lie within its abv range of 6.8%. You can easily have more than a couple in a night, hell, maybe even a six pack. If you like your IPAs to really kick you in the face with a strong hop presence (like Hophead Jimmy), you might not be as high on this beer as I am. However, I really enjoyed this well balanced beer, and am giving it an 8/10.

Glass type: Sam Adams glass
Serving type: bottle

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Avery Redpoint Ale

I pawned this one off of Alex after a party involving midgets, porn, and Napolean (Bonaparte, not Dynamite, and yea, don't ask about this one, either). He wasn't too high on it at the time, so I figured I would give it a whirl.

Appearance: Pours with a dark amber color that is pretty cloudy as bubbles are slowly released from the bottom and rise up, about half a finger of head with decent lacing.

Smell: Nice subtle herbal aroma from the hops, but after that its all sweet and caramel malts, overall the smell kind of remind me of apple pie (bizarre, I know).

Taste: Malts dominate all the way through, but not in a good way, hops are barely noticeable, they appear for an instant, if that, left a weird dank aftertaste that isn't too pleasant.

Mouthfeel: Some carbonation to tickle the mouth, light and a little watery, nothing great or even noticeable, aftertaste is still dominating, though, maybe ruining the effect.

Drinkability: Well, for a beer that's only 5.5% abv, there is a strong taste of alcohol, not what I was expecting. The aftertaste really is the one thing standing out to me, which is why I am harping on it. Its not one that makes me want more, but rather put it down and start with something else. I mean yea, its not horrible, I'll still finish the glass, but not what I was expecting from a brewery like Avery, which has quite a few beers I'm fond of. Looks like Alex's instincts were right, I give it a 6/10.

Glass type: Sam Adams glass
Serving type: bottle

Monday, March 23, 2009

Brooklyn East India Pale Ale

I haven't reviewed in quite some time, so in preparation of Higgity Piggity '09 (if you don't know, don't ask) I'll review a few I've been meaning to over the next week. I'm pretty sure I had this brew at the brewery on my adventure to Brooklyn with Alex and his twin Tim, but don't remember for sure.

Appearance: Pours with a somewhat cloudy golden color with barely a finger of head, alive with bubbles rising to the top, and the little bit of head that exists is surprisingly lacey.

Smell: I don't know if its my allergies acting up, but the smell isn't very strong, it does have some hints of floral hops with some fruitiness and a dash of spice.

Taste: The taste has a much stronger hop presence than the smell, starting with that floral fruity bit and leaving with the spiciness, a tiny bit of sweetness that could be coming from the malts, but it could just be playing tricks with me.

Mouthfeel: Well carbonated but not overly so, a little watery, but not too light.

Drinkability: The spiciness and other interesting flavors that come at you make it a nice beer to try, but it can wear you down and make you tired of it by the end of beer #1. It's not that the 6.9% abv is too strong, as is obvious from our other reviews we can drink higher abv beers in more quantity, but the unique flavors are not conducive to drinking more than one or two in a row before you want something else. Not my favorite from Brooklyn Brewery, but still worth a tasting. It gets a 7/10 from me.

*NOTE: I freakin hate using "Drinkability" ever since Bud Light decided that would be its new excuse to drink its hog sweat they call beer. However, I think we contest that our definitions are different: we say drinkability is about repeatability based on taste, quality, alcoholic strength, and overall satisfaction; their definition is not dying upon instant consumption, although that is debatable. /End rant

Glass type: Sam Adams glass
Serving type: bottle

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA Ale

There have been lots of hype about this ale recently from fellow hopheads Ryan and Alex, as well as some high school friends of whom I thought do not drink craft beer. It must be the hot new thing in town, even more so than WWF wrestling was back in the days of the Macho Man Randy Savage (snap into a slim jim ooooooo yeaaaaa). Alright, lets see if this ale can match my strong expectations.

Appearance: One finger of head pale pour with shimmers of St. Patrick's day green flashing in and out.

Smell: Fresh piney hop aromas. Reminds me of some belgian IPAs that are a bit perfumy.

Taste: The balancing act of the nutty malts blends well with the piney hoppiness.

Refreshing. Appears watery but goes down with more substance than expected.

I have never experienced whole-cone American hops before (from what my poor memory can recollect) so this ale was a new for me, which comes as a shocker as IPAs are my favorite style (and Imperial IPAs too!!) It was pretty damn good for an IPA (I don't know if the "Extra" means Imperial/Double or just more hops like a Fresh Hop Ale). I need to drink this again and review as my beer senses are out of wack. This 7.2% abv'er is going to get a 8/10 from me for now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Meeting Mr. Maier

As Philly Beer Week 2009 has unfolded, I have had the pleasure of tasting beers from several new breweries (some better than others), gone to events that highlight some of the best brewers in the nation, and have mingled with other "hopheads" that enjoy craft brewing as much as I do. It has truly been a pinnacle event for Philadelphia beer, and I encourage others who have not been, to mark their calendar's for next year's Beer Week.

This past Wednesday (3/11), a pub down the street from work was having an event highlighting Rogue Ales, having something called "Steal the Pint" where if you bought a Pint of Rogue on tap, you were allowed to keep the glass. It certainly seemed like an awesome event, so I rode down on my bike after work to check it out.

The place was mobbed. My co-workers Josh and Jason and I were able to find a small standing area (with no elbow room) to enjoy our first pint of Double Dead Guy Ale. And, as we were finishing, a table of guys settled their tab, and were getting up to head out. Josh jumped into action. Dipping, jumping, and diving past other happy hour socialites, Josh was able to make his way to the vacant table, and secure a pair of chairs. At the same time another group of people were also trying to score a few seats, so Josh offered to share the table.

Now sitting, and enjoying the rest of our pints, a man with a full beard. I thought he seemed familiar, but I wasn't all too sure. Donning a Rogue button-up, I just assumed I had seen him at some other beer fest, working for Rogue. So I asked him if he worked for them. With a chuckle, he answered, "Why yes! I'm the brewmaster. John Maier." So, I talked with him for a bit, asking him some questions about brewing and Philly Beer Week:

Q: What varieties of hops do you guys generally use?
A: "Most of our brews use a mix of hops like Crystal, Cascade, Centennial, among others" (He also went on to say that they use a hop that is only made close to them in Oregon)

Q: Which beer would you call the favorite child?
A: "I really think the Brutal Bitter. Although, I would say that I worked the hardest on the Mocha Porter".

Q: So what do you think of the Philly Beer week?
A: "Phenomenal. It's really a great event. I've been here the last couple years for it, and it keeps getting better."

Q: How would you rate Philadelphia as a Beer city?
A: "It's definitely near the top. One of the biggest things I notice is how cheap it is to get a good pint around here! As opposed to NY or Boston, or even Oregon, it's very reasonable."

Q: Would you say it's a hotbed for Craft Brewing?
A: "Oh yeah, definitely"

Q: Which brewery from Philly would you say is your favorite?
A: "I would say I am most impressed with Tröegs. Their wet hopped seasonal was a very nice brew"

Q: Nugget Nectar?
A: "Yup, that was it."

Q: I have a two Double Dead Guy bombers at home, and I was wondering how long you'd recommend to age one?
A: "OH! I'd make sure you drank it within the year. You won't gain much from it by letting it age."

Unfortunately, I already owned the pint glass they were giving out (and they were out of them by the time we got there anyway). But having talked with Mr. Maier was a great enough reward for stopping in for a few pints of Rogue Double Dead Guy on tap.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Stone Imperial Russian Stout (Aged One Year)

So this Friday, I was at an undisclosed bar in Brooklyn to see Shayfer James, where my brother ordered a Delirium Tremens (They were out of the beer with the duck on the tap handle, so he ordered the one with the elephant instead). It came in a great glass, which I was unaware is very popular among the bar-bound kleptomaniacs of the world. I was also apparently unaware that I too was one of these folks, because I walked out of there with that glass in my sweatshirt. Sleazy I know. Such a cool glass though!

So with that as an introduction, I present to you all the first beer of the new glass, a Stone Imperial Russian Stout that I originally bought in March 2008.

Appearance: Black as night. The Delirium glass features a lil' elephant etched into the bottom of the glass to make more bubbles, much like the little circle on the bottom of the new Sam Adams glass. That's nice and all, but there's no way you're seeing any bubble action through the oily depths of this bad boy. About a finger of burnt marshmallow head presents itself as well, and tight lacing remains throughout.

Smell: Understated chocolate and coffee malts in the nose. Not in-your-face, or overly boozy at all. At 90+ IBUs and 10.8% ABV, the aging process has really affected this brew.

Taste: Burnt malts up front. Deliciously bitter. Very smooth due to its age. Not much hops left, but still very balanced. So tasty.

Mouthfeel: Great carbonation. Not overly watery or motor-oil thick.

Drinkability: Really great balance. Upwards of 11% but not too boozy. As good as stouts get. I'll definitely be looking for the Imperial Russian again this year.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Defiant Golden Nugget Ale

I stopped by this hidden brewery in my neck of the woods over at Pearl River, NY by the train station this past Friday evening. It looks like an abandoned warehouse on the outside, but there are some serious brewers just waiting for beer drinkers to come in and taste their creations. I ended up having their Golden Nugget pale ale as well as their stout. I brought home of growler of the pale ale. He is what I think:

Appearance: Clear amber pour with 1/2 finger of carbonation (this is from the growler) that dissipates within a couple of minutes. Looks simple and basic to drink in one gulp.

Smell: A well blended clash of sour orange nugget hops and yeasty malts.

Taste: Crisp and refreshing with now more hints of smoky malts.

Mouthfeel: Thin on the palate (this could have been the growler as the pint at the bar had more body). Kind of a musty hop after taste.

Drinkability: I found this to be extra hopped compared to your typical pale ale. Very easy to consume and I would definitely have another one. Not bad for the locals. 7.5/10; guessing ~5% abv

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dogfish Head Red & White

As I mentioned before, we had this brew at the EBF, but I wanted to give it a fair review without the confused palate of so many delicious beers, so here goes.

Appearance: Poured into my Duvel tulip glass, dark amber/brown color, cloudy, extreme amount of head, could be from a shaken bottle, improper pour, or just the nature of the beer, it is lacey and does stick around for a while.

Smell: A fruity white grape aroma with a tinge of orange in the background, has a distinctive wine smell that dominates and some sweet malts in the fray.

Taste: An interesting combo of sweet malts and white wine taste, big difference in make-up between smell and taste, a weird ebb and flow as the fruitiness begins the taste, maltiness takes over next, then the aftertaste is dominated with a strong alcohol sensation similar to that from wine, pretty unique to me as I haven't had anything comparable, although you could make a case with a Belgian, but the Belgians pack a little more punch and are identifiable, while this doesn't make as noticeable a mark.

Mouthfeel: Well carbonated, light, a dry alcohol twinge at the end that makes you want to quench your thirst more.

Drinkability: Definitely a pleasant beer to have, enjoyed its crispness and its complex flavoring, relatively easy to drink, but one bottle could do you in at 10% abv. I'm glad I had this beer again after the festival because I remember not liking it as much there as I do now. I'm positive the overload on the tastebuds was the reason since we had it late in the day. I give this a solid 7.5/10.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Duvel tulip glass

Extreme Beer Festival Ramblings

What a festival! Kudos to Beer Advocate for putting on another first class beer fest. This was our second festival we attended that was thrown by them, and the second time we were so glad we made the trek to Boston.

We arrived at the Cyclorama about 20 minutes before the door opened and the line was well around the corner already, filled with beer enthusiasts from all over. While waiting we went over our lists of what beers we absolutely had to try, knowing full well however that once we got inside the lists would stay in our pockets because damn it, we want to try EVERY BEER.

When we got inside, our first thoughts were "How the hell are they going to fit 1,000 beer aficionados into such a small venue?" Granted, we were at ACBF where the venue was bigger and more spread out, so this seemed a little cramped, but once they had everyone in there, it wasn't nearly as bad as we thought. Obviously the organizers knew what they were doing and had the event there before, so who are we to question. The rotunda shape was perfect as you could just go in a circle around the room to hit your favorite beers, while still having some room in the middle to mingle.

Our first beer was Bell's Hopslam. This was not that beer (the first vid below was the Hopslam), I just like the pic and I don't remember for sure what we were drinking in it. Maybe one of the other hopheads can remember. Anyway, Hopslam was one of the few beers we thought were clear winners for the best beers at the fest. Unfortunately, other than knowing we loved it, none of us took notes or anything, so we can't really tell you what we liked about it. It's probably for the best because our writing would have been illegible by the end, and we definitely didn't want to spend half our time writing gibberish.

Three Floyd's Dreadnaught was also fantastic, one of the only beers where we went back for seconds and thirds. Their Behemoth was pretty good as well, but not up to par with the Big D. Here's FFF's hippie-like Buddha poster thingie. I also think one of the Alstrom bros. is behind that guy's hood, he was helping them out.

Dogfish Head (left) had a huuuge lineup, not surprising since they were the co-sponsor. 90 and 120 Minute IPA, Worldwide Stout, Red & White (which I will be reviewing momentarily), and BA Select were the headliners. Good selection, but for some reason we weren't thrilled with the quality. Something was just off, but we've had enough DFH to know what an awesome brewery they are. A brewery we didn't really know, American Flatbread, was right next door with
some quality brews. One of the notables was the Wassail Holiday Stout, which was conditioned using a ridiculous amount of local raspberries. Alex might remember the exact pounds per gallon ratio, because I don't. The Wassail was also from a cask. Discovering beers like this is the exact reason you go to these festivals, for the diamonds in the rough.

Lagunitas and Troegs had prime spots right in the middle. Troegs had their reliable #1 and hopheads favorite Nugget Nectar, nuff said. Lagunitas had its Gnarley Wine. I remember it being good, but not as good the last time I've had it, which is strange because I can't remember when I've had it before. Do you notice a theme that I can't remember shit? The beer is killing my brain cells slowly.

Stone and Magic Hat definitely brought some winners. MH had a Wild Ginger Ale that was refreshing and crisp, almost like a palate cleanser, but in a good way. Fun fact: we are also sushi enthusiasts and noted that this would pair perfectly with the fishy delicacy. Stone was fantastic because they brought different versions of Double Bastard, dry-hopped and whiskey barrel aged, and versions of their Old Guardian Barley Wine. It was just a great experience to taste the subtle differences in the character of the beer based on what was done during the brewing process. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it was just a cool moment to experience first hand at the festival, especially since we have brewing aspirations as well.

Overall, we had a blast. So many brews, so many memories. The after-festival ...er...festivities put a great cap on the night and was documented, but are probably best kept under wraps for fear of prosecution. Below are a couple videos taken during the festival. We took a couple more, but they are also X-rated and will remain off the web.