Friday, October 30, 2009

Review: St. Sebastiaan Dark Ale

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Picked up a bottle of this one at Marcello's the other day, I had had their Grand Reserve ale before and enjoyed it, so I figured I'd try another one.  St. Sebastiaan is out of Belgium, from a brewery that brews and markets under several brand names.  This one is considered to be a dubbel in style, which is typically one of my favorite styles of beer.

I like the packaging a lot, ceramic bottle with both a bottlecap and a rubber snap-plunger for saving some.  Problem is that it's only a pint bottle, not much to save here.  It would be far more useful on a liter bottle or 750ml bottle even.  Oh well, it's still a cool concept.

I poured the beer into a Chimay goblet, as should be done with any Belgian ale.  Not necessarily a Chimay goblet, but any sort of good beer goblet.  Glassware is pretty important for proper flavor, so when in doubt check out beeradvocate or another site for proper glassware recommendations.  Dark brown body with a large creamy head as can be seen above!  Certainly looks inviting.

Very fruity alcoholic aroma, hints of berries and a subtle bit of spice. Raisins come to mind.

The taste is more of the same, nothing too varied from what I smelled... very clean aftertaste. I'm betting this one gets even better as it warms up even more... just not too warm.  Belgian beers like this one are meant to be drank around 45 degrees or so.  Very little bitterness at any point in each sip.

A solid Belgian ale, but leaves a little to be desired.  At $7.49 for a pint, I can't see going back for more of these anytime soon.  While good, there are better beers to be had for the money.

Taste: B+
Value: C-
Avail.: B+ (I think the bigger beer retailers in our area will carry this one.)

Three random baseball thoughts... the people arguing like crazy for instant replay need to consider the consequences of reviewing a play where action continues afterwards.  Like the line drive to Howard last night... replays showed he missed it despite the out call on the field.  What happens if the correct call is made on replay there?  Everyone is safe?  Obviously had the correct call been made on the field right away Howard would have thrown to second immediately trying to turn two instead of taking a few steps towards first.  Or perhaps he continues on to first and gets the force there.  You can't just assume that the rest of the play would continue identically to how it did, and that's the problem with instant replay on a call involving a live ball.  I predicted Hairston Jr. as a surprise hero a few entries ago, and he got a start last night, getting the hit that led to a key insurance run for the Yankees.  It appears my favorite team, the Astros, have hired Mills as their new manager.  I don't know too much about him, but I hope the front office has the patience to give him a chance to succeed in the long run rather than run him out when he inevitably fails in the short-term with an aging team and depleted farm system.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: Stone Ales at The Chimes!

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I went by The Chimes (check out a food review here...) last Friday with a couple of friends, and had both of the Stone beers offered up, the Levitation Ale and the Arrogant Bastard Ale.  Both were superb so I made it a point to have another one of each (okay, two more of the Arrogant Bastard) when I ended up back at The Chimes last night after another Pirates kickball victory. 

I started off with another of the Levitation Ale, a weaker beer at 4.4% abv but still strong on taste.  It came out in an imperial pint about to overflow (bonus points for the strong pour) with a dark copper color and a small white head.  Looks good, that's for sure.

There is a hint of malt and caramel but the aroma is dominated mostly by the hops.  For an amber ale it has a lot of hop pressence, but that's not a bad thing at all.  In fact, for a California brew, it's pretty much expected.  This one's real easy to drink, goes down smooth and the taste is a well balanced concoction of caramel, spices, hops, and a little fruit.  I wouldn't go for this one (or any Stone beer) if you don't like the hops, but if you do, give it a try!  And at only $4 for a pint, can't beat that deal.

After the Levitation Ale, I ordered up another Arrogant Bastard Ale.  I love the name, reminds me of more than one person I know for sure.  At 7.2% abv and considered a 'stong ale' this one is basically a Levitation Ale on steroids, and it probably Stone's best known brew.  The coloration is very similar, and the taste profile overlaps a good bit.  You're still going to find a lot of the malt and caramel nicely blended with hops.  The hops aren't quite as strong on the front of each sip as the Levitation, but it's still a hoppy beer compared to most down here.  And just like the Levitation, this one clocks in as a cheap pint, only $3.75.  (Okay, I might have the two mixed up... but one was $4 and the other was $3.75... so... close enough.)

Now I'm really looking forward to a few other Stone beers on tap or in bottles.  I know several of their other beers have made their way to South LA, so I guess it's time to do some hunting. Cheers guys!

Taste: A-/A
Value: A+/A+
Avail.: B/B  (Waiting to see if the bottles make it into our market, but I think the draft is here to stay.)

Three random thoughts... the opening of the NBA season is on right now, and it just amazes me how much I'd rather be watching the World Series; I made a beer run to Marcello's today and picked up a few that I'd never tried, reviews coming soon I'm sure; and Chuchill's in BR is having a scotch tasting tomorrow evening, can't wait!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Matt Stairs Is My Hero.

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Sure, Jimmy Rollins might have been the real hero of last night's game 4 win for the Phillies, but after reading some of the post-game write-ups I think Matt Stairs just might be my new favorite baseball player.  My anti-Chipper Jones, so to speak.  

For those who missed it, Stairs came in with one out in the ninth inning, drew a four-pitch walk, and then was promptly lifted for a pinch runner.  The exact sort of at-bat that heros are made of, my friends.  Alright, who am I kidding... that's not why Stairs is my hero.  He's my new favorite player because of what he said after the game.  (Quotes below taken from Jayson Stark's article on

"As I was standing in that batter's box," he went on, "I had one thing in mind -- and that was going for that Budweiser sign (which hangs from the facing of the second deck in right field). But then again, that doesn't change -- against anybody."  
Come on people, who doesn't love a guy who goes to the plate with one goal in mind... hit the Budweiser sign?  I'm not sure if this would be better if he's aiming for the Budweiser sign because the man can throw down some Steveweisers like it's hit job, or if he's aiming for the sign because he hates InBev and all that the beer conglomerate stands for, or maybe he's just aiming for that specific sign because it happens to be deep in rightfield and Stairs is a dead-pull lefty.  It doesn't really matter, because either way when the game is on the line and he digs into the batters box, Matt Stairs is thinking about beer.  Amen, Mr. Stairs. 

But he's not done. 
"I'm just glad he didn't throw me a 3-and-0 fastball [over the plate]," Stairs said, chuckling to himself, "because I was gonna swing as hard as I can and see what happens. I've never turned down a fastball, and I never will. I'll be swinging at fastballs till I'm 50. They might be slow-pitch fastballs, but I'll be swinging at them."
You have to admire a guy who knows what he wants.  And Stairs wants fastballs.  Lots and lots of fastballs.  And the best part about this quote is that I can see someone like Matt Stairs playing in a BREC slow-pitch softball league in his 50s crushing slow-pitch fastballs 187' over the right-field fence, then skipping the home-run trot (they don't want you to waste time running the bases) and heading straight to the dugout to shotgun a few Buds.  That's right Matt Stairs, in slow-pitch softball, drinking in the dugout is more or less a part of the game.  If that doesn't get you excited for your inevitable retirement from MLB, I don't know what will.  Just for the love of Jesus man, try not to hit any screaming liners up the middle.

And as if all that wasn't enough to convince you that Matt Stairs is the coolest man in baseball, check out this t-shirt!  I want one, put it on my Christmas list.

 Three other fun facts from last night's games: that was only the third time in MLB post-season history that a team had a walk-off extra-base hit to come from behind while down to their last out (while playing in an open-air stadium, against a right-handed pitcher, blah blah blah...); the pitch Rollins hit for the walk-off double was the fastest pitch he'd seen all season; if Rollins had just stopped at first (because really, with two outs, he didn't matter at all at that point) then fun fact #1 would be irrelevant. 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Review: Wexford Irish Style Creme Ale

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First let's bring it back to St. Patrick's Day 2009... when my buddy Jeremy Spikes put together a fantastic float for the parade. The theme was 'pub crawl' and one of the pub signs we used to decorate our float was from Durty Nelly's pub. Fast forward a couple of months to a trip to Ireland in M
ay 2009... where we ended up booking a couple of nights at the Bunratty Castle hotel, a beautiful hotel located a short walk from Bunratty Castle itself. And at the foot of Bunratty Castle was the infamous Durty Nelly's. One of my goals as I travel around the world and the country is to always seek out different beers, and it just so happened that they had one I had never tried before, Wexford Creme Ale. Now, by the time we hit up that particular pub it had been a long evening of drinking, so my memories of the beer might be a little hazy, but I remember a lighter, very refreshing alternative to the usual Guinness and Smithwick's you can find throughout Irish pubs.

Fast forward again to October 2009, when a trip to Spec's with my buddy James Lawson produced another surprise, 4-packs of the Wexford on the shelf. Since the memories were fond for this beer, it was time to buy a pack, and now it's time to get on with the review.

There's a nice hissing when the 440 ml (that's about 14.9 oz. for us) can pops open and the widget (the same as in a can of G
uinness!) activates, releasing thousands and thousands of bubbles. The instructions on the can say to pour down the side, so I did... into an imperial pint glass courtesy of Ivar's. At first it's nothing but bubbles giving the pour a creamy tan color with the bubbles rising and beer level rising with them. The beer itself is a cloudy amber color, not dark at all like a stout, hence the 'creme ale' label. A thick white creamy head developed on the beer and just won't go away!

The beer has a smell of a little bit of malt with some definite butterscotch, and a little bit of hops on the end, nothing too strong though. There is a hint of caramel on the first taste along with a slight bitterness from the light hops. The butterscotch present in the smell is still there on the back end of each sip. Probably the most noticeable thing is the way the beer feels like a big thick beer despite being rather light. The nitro-pressure gives it a much more full body than a light lager, but still not overly carbonated.

As far as 'drinkability' goes, Bud Light doesn't have shit on this stuff. There's nothing overly offensive or bold about it, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some people don't like overly hoppy, or stout, or chocolatey, or fruity beers, and this is none of those. It's a nice balance of malt and light hops that everyone should be able to enjoy. I could definitely kill a few of these in a sitting.

Despite mediocre marks on beeradvocate, I must say I really enjoyed this beer. I'm glad my memory didn't entirely let me down!

Taste: B
Value: B
Avail.: C-

Three fun facts: the beer is called 'Irish Style' because despite being molded after and named after a county in Ireland, it's actually brewed in the UK; Wexford checks in a 5.0% abv, which puts it in the mid-range of beers; County Wexford is in the Leinster province of Ireland.