Monday, August 23, 2010

A Special Thank You To Gulf Shores / Orange Beach

This past weekend I had the pleasure of bring treated to a weekend of drinking and dining and other activities thanks to the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.  I had never been before, and it was great to see the area, see how the beaches were clean and oil-free, and experience some of the nightlife and dining the area has to offer.  The trip wasn't necessarily aimed at beer bloggers, but don't worry, I still had plenty of beer to tell you about later.  Including a handful of beers that I had never tried before!  For now, I just wanted to thank the following:

First and foremost: the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau and their wonderful employees.
Chris Nelson  and Alabama Kayak Adventures

All of these places contributed to a fantastic weekend... which I will be writing about in more detail shortly! I'm sure Jay will be as well over at Bite and Booze, and the rest of the bloggers will be and I'll have links to them as well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

100th Post Special! - An Update Of My 10 Favorite Beers.

When I first started this blog... oh, around 100 posts ago... I put together a top 10 list of my favorite beers that you can see over on the right side of the page.  Since I put together that list, which I haven't updated... yet... I've been lucky enough to try many many more delicious beers, so I figured my 100th post was a good time to update my top 10 list!

In count-down order, of course:

Number 10: La Trappe Tripel (Koningshoeven)

This fantastic Dutch-brewed Belgian style ale is among my favorite tripels, which is generally one of my favorite styles.  It was #7 on the original list, so obviously it's slipped a few spots but still held on to the last spot in my top 10.  For more about this brew, check out my World Cup of Beer post on The Netherlands... featuring this very beer.

Number 9: Hitachino Nest White Ale

Hailing from the far east country of Japan, this is the lightest beer in my top 10, and the lowest in alcohol content.  Don't let that fool you into thinking this one doesn't have much flavor though, because it's a bold Japanese take on a Belgian witbier.  The Belgian ales are known in large part to their spices, as is the orient, so combining the two in the right way is a flavorful masterpiece like the Hitachino Nest White Ale.  Much like the La Trappe Tripel above, this one is a holdover from the original top 10, dropping from #6 to #9.  And also, like that one it was featured in the World Cup of Beer tour... representing Japan.

Number 8: St. Bernardus Abt 12

Another holdover, dropping from #5 to #8, the St. Bernardus Abt 12 is one of the top "quads" in the world and a beer that can be found in a few select places in BR such as Calandro's.  They are called "quads" in reference to the style known as a quadrupel.  They are generally stronger, darker, and bolder than the dubbels and tripels that precede them.  And the St. Bernandus version is a great example.  Pick one up if you want to give something new a trip, but if you're jumping straight from Bud Light or even Abita Amber... might not want to make this the first stop, instead try one of the two beers above.

Number 7: Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock

Another repeat, and another beer featured in the World Cup of Beer representing Germany!  This one is both the most reviewed and the highest ranked doppelbock on BeerAdvocate, so I think it's safe to say it might be the most popular example of the style in the world.  And with good reason, as it's a perfect example of the caramel malt feel one should expect from the style.  Easily available in Baton Rouge, give this one a try when you get the chance!

Number 6: Westmalle Tripel

This is the second 'Trappist' beer on my top 10, and it's widely considered to be one of the best tripels in the world.  It's also the first style to make a repeat appearance on the top 10, but that's really no surprise to me.  This is also another one that can be found in the BR area, I've seen it at Calandro's before for sure.

Number 5: Unibroue La Terrible

Canada, welcome to the top 10.  This is the first of three new entries into the top 10, and the only one from North of the border.  Unibroue is better known for their tripel, La Fin Du Monde, but this Belgian Strong Dark Ale (BSDA) is my favorite offering of theirs, so far.  This one is a delicious blend of caramel malts, raisin, and boozy alcoholic goodness.  One of my notes in the review was that it reminded me of a rich bread pudding.

Number 4: Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout

Another newcomer to the list, this monster out of Great Divide Brewing in Colorado is unfortunately not available in Louisiana... but you can get some in Texas!  A few snippets from my notes when I reviewed this one:  "Looks fucking amazing. Easily one of the best looking beers I've seen in a while."  "It smells of bitter chocolate, a little dark roast coffee as well... very nice."  "One of the best Imperial Stouts I've ever tried. I'm really enjoying this one so far."  So apparently I really liked it!  Next time you're in Houston or even Beaumont, stop in at Spec's and bring a few of these back to me.  Thanks.  

Number 3: Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

I actually picked this one up at the Spec's in Beaumont on the same trip as the Yeti Imperial Stout above, and I'd say I hit the jackpot with these two.  Stone is available in Louisiana these days, but I have yet to see this particular offering on the shelves.  If I ever do, I'm going to be buying a few for sure.  It's considered an American Strong Ale by the good people at BeerAdvocate, and it reminded me a lot of a really really ridiculously good Double IPA.  Super hoppy, dominated by pine scents and flavors.  It tasted a lot like drinking a freshly cut Christmas tree.  So... if that sounds appealing to you, find one of these.

Number 2: Chimay Grand Reserve

Recognized as the Blue Chimay, this one is an old standard and still holds a high place on my top 10.  Another one of the 'Trappist' breweries in Belgium, Chimay produces world-class beers and if I wasn't limiting this top 10 to only one per brewery, their dubbel (red label) would also make the cut based on my review scores.  Easy to find all over BR, even at places like Albertson's, grab one without hesitation next time you want to try something new.

And that brings us to the number 1 beer on my updated top 10 list... and the view at the top has not changed...

Number 1: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

Unfortunately this is one that isn't available anywhere close to BR, but it brings back fond memories of a trip to Chicago and a true introduction to how awesome barrel-aged beers can be.  This offering from Goose Island is one I first had on tap at the Wrigleyville brewpub.  The bourbon flavors are immense, but blend well with notes of vanilla and chocolate.  Maybe one day these guys will be available in BR, but until then, whenever you're up in the Midwest, find one and give it a try.

A few notes about this list... I only considered beers that I had been able to properly review for this list... I've had the pleasure of many tastings recently, but it's not fair to compare a tasting of a beer that I had mixed in with 10 others in a night to beers that I've been able to really review properly.  This unfortunately eliminated some great offerings from Brooklyn, and Russian River, among others... but hey, it's all an inexact science anyway!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Abita S.O.S. - Save Our Shore

Alright, only a month or so late, I finally got a chance to try the Abita S.O.S. last night... first at the Chimes and then I broke open one of the ones I had bought at home to give a good thorough review.   As I'm sure most of you know, this is a new beer from Abita, created to raise money to go towards restoring the gulf coast after the oil spill.  The cause alone will be enough to sell plenty of the 22 oz. bombers at around $4 apiece retail, but I wanted to see how good the beer itself actually was.

This beer is labeled by some as a German Pilsener style beer, and fortunately I have a few good authentic pilsener glasses.  Nothing like pairing the right beer with the right glass to help it out.  The Abita SOS pours a bubbly gold color, clear with a nice creamy white head and good retention. Not a bad looking brew.
I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma... more like a pale ale than a pilsener to me, hoppier than expected and also a hint of the wheat roots.   There's more wheat on the tongue than on the the nose... and less hops although there is a slight bite towards the end. A little watery but quite good.

This one's nothing spectacular that's going to win national awards, but I'm pleasantly surprised with this wheat imperial pilsener hybrid. 
A well done beer and all for a good cause.

My rating: B

Monday, August 9, 2010

Beer Travels: Seattle Part 2

Part 1 of the Seattle trip ended at the Pike Brewing Company, located just off the Pike Public Market in downtown Seattle... 

From there, Jay and I took off on foot south towards the stadiums on the edge of downtown, heading for the Pyramid Alehouse.  Pyramid is a regional brewery, with 5 locations on the West coast, and the Seattle location is the original.  It's location is perfect for sports fans, right across the street from Safeco Field (which I checked out in Part 1 of this trip) and only a few blocks from Qwest field, where the Seahawks and Sounders play.  

Jay had set up a meeting with Meech Crowley, in marketing with Pyramid, so while we waited on her, it was time for a sampler platter of beers!  The deal was, you get to choose 5 of the beers on tap, and that was no easy task.  I went with the Audacious Apricot Ale, Curve Ball Blonde Ale, Thunderhead IPA, Draught Pale Ale, and a special Dark IPA they had on tap.  The Audacious Apricot Ale really stood out at first, a delicious fruit beer which is a hard balance to obtain.  The Curve Ball Blonde Ale is a great lighter summer beer to beat the heat, and it sure was hot on this trip!  I enjoyed the Thunderhead IPA, although I feel it was toned down a little for the baseball crowd as opposed to a real beer geek's IPA.  The Draught Pale Ale was another solid beer, exclusive to the Alehouse and a nice balance of malt and hops.  I was probably most excited about the Dark IPA, not even featured on the beer menu but on tap for a limited time.

After the samplers, an appetizer and an interesting discussion with Meech followed, about the history of Pyramid and their goals as a brewery.  It's always good to get the insider perspective!  Then... it was time for some food and some more drinks.  The sampler was a nice warm-up but I'm pretty sure that between Jay and I we went through the entire lineup by the end of the evening.  One of my favorites was the seasonal Grifter IPA, one Jay had sampled and enjoyed.  It's a stronger IPA than the Thunderhead, good kick and quite delicious.  As Jay noted, they were short on dark beers during our visit, with no stouts or porters, but a quick look shows that it was probably a seasonal thing, which makes sense for the hotter summer months.  All in all a fantastic visit, and one of my favorite hangouts in Seattle.
From there it was off to catch the train back downtown to visit Quinn's Pub.  The baseball crowd was filling in and as we were headed to the station... oh look it's AJ Burnett!  

After a quick ride on the train and a quick hop in a cab, we were at Quinn's Pub, the final stop of the night before we family obligations came calling and we headed to the pre-wedding festivities. 

Quinn's is more of a 'gastropub' than a traditional pub, with an equal focus (if not greater) on the cuisine than the beer.  And the beer selection was fantastic in both quantity and quality, so you can imagine the food was top notch!   The first beer selection was a Dick's Grand Cru, a belgian-style ale from Dick's Brewing Company in Centralia, WA.  A fantastic was to start this stop of our Seattle tour.   Regan Vaugn, the manager of Quinn's, met with us to discuss the food and beer and left a great impression of the place.  After some of the delicious food that Jay will cover in detail we finished off the stop with a Manny's Pale Ale from Georgetown Brewing and an Odin's Gift Ruby Red from Odin Brewing Company.  Both breweries are local to Seattle and did not disappoint in the least.  
It was a fantastic was to finish off our day's tour and taste some more of what Seattle has to offer.  The only real complaint is that we didn't have more time to spend in the city!  We had several other recommendations that we weren't able to see, including the Tap House Grill, Rock Bottom BreweryHale's Ales Brewpub, and the Brouwer's Cafe.  Maybe next time... because there WILL be a next time.

Pyramid Breweries on Urbanspoon

Quinn's on Urbanspoon