Thursday, June 30, 2011

The 50 Best Beers In America!

Just thought I'd share a link with everyone... the American Homebrewer's Association asked their readers (sure to be big time beer lovers, right?) to rank their 20 best beers, and put together all the results to declare their 50 best beers in America!  The full article and list is here... and the winner for the third time in a row was Pliny The Elder by Russian River.  I tried it at a beer tasting at The Avenue Pub a while back and it is most certainly a tasty brew.

Amazingly I've tried 39 out of these 52 (yeah, there were ties at the end) beers.  Honestly I'm pretty proud of that considering our limited selection in Louisiana.  As far as I can tell, only 14 of these 52 beers are distributed to Louisiana, and that is mostly the Stone and Sierra Nevada selections that really scored high. 

The same poll was also used to determine the 25 best breweries in America, with Dogfish Head coming out on top.  Again Sierra Nevada and Stone placed high (both in the top 5) and they are the main ones that we can get here in Louisiana.  

Anyway... what do you think about the list?  How many of the top 50... er... 52 have you tried?  And more importantly, do you think you could hook me up with any of the ones I'm missing out on?

Cheers everyone!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Resolution Check-in At The Halfway Mark!

Okay, so I guess it's a day early... and July 1 isn't REALLY halfway through the year thanks to February being a bastard month, but it's still close enough for me.  Let's see how I'm doing on all those resolutions!
  1. Visit more breweries: I set a goal to visit 6 breweries and am at 4 so far, so I'm on pace for sure.  So far I've visited Tin Roof in Baton Rouge, Parish Brewing in Broussard, Freetail in San Antonio, and Saint Arnold in Houston.  I was hoping to check out the new No Label Brewing this weekend in Katy, TX, but they are apparently closed on the first Saturday of every month.  Dammit.

  2. Get published somewhere other than my own blog:  Hmmmm, technically I guess I could count this as accomplished, as Restauranteers has picked up my blog feed for their site, as well as Louisiana Brews.  Still, that's not me writing for someone else, it's just them using my content and linking back to me.  So... I'm iffy on this one.

  3. Keep home-brewing: So far this is still going on... I bottled a noble pilsner last week, and have a peach witbier in secondary as we speak.  I haven't been brewing as MUCH as I anticipated, but I also still have a nice stockpile since I've been focusing so much on resolution #7. 

  4. Enter a home-brew contest: I haven't done this one yet... but there are a few on the horizon that have potential to satisfy this resolution.

  5. Drink a beer stronger than I ever have before: Check and check.  I tried the 18.2% abv Tokio Imperial Stout back in February, and on a trip to San Antonio I tried an 18% abv Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

  6. Continue to get in better shape and lose weight as I simultaneously continue to enjoy beer and write about it: Well, I haven't been the best at this one, but I am only 8 pounds up on the year.  The last few weeks I've decided to really get back to dieting and exercise and to save the beer drinking for the weekends when I'll allow myself to cheat a little.  I'm sure I'm still going to drink during the week from time to time when tastings arise, but I'll try to avoid it as much as possible.  And hopefully I'll finish the year lighter than when I started it.

  7. There are 365 days in 2011... I think I should try 365 new beers: As of writing this, I'm at 229 new beers in 2011, and at the end of June I should be at 181.  I'd say 48 beers ahead of schedule is looking pretty solid.  And I have another 12 or so at home just waiting to be drank and reviewed.  Boo-ya!
And there you have it... 7 resolutions and making solid progress towards accomplishing them all!  Cheers everyone, and thanks for all the help, especially on those last two.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: Ska Brewing True Blonde Dubbel

Time for a quickie from Ska Brewing out of Durango, Colorado. As far as I can remember this was the first beer I've tried from Ska Brewing, although I know there are at least two to follow in my quest to drink 365 new beers in 2011. Sometimes it's really hard for me to keep up with the reviews, so that's why I'm going to try to get more and more quick reviews out on beers I try solo, and focus longer posts on events and places.
I picked this one up in a bomber from Spec's in Houston. I've also had it on tap at the Ginger Man Pub in Houston, so anyone heading to Texas should be able to find it and other Ska Brewing beers pretty easily.
I poured from the bomber into a St. Bernardus goblet... as always for a Belgian style ale, a goblet is appropriate. (With the exception of the witbier...) This dubbel is a clear deep golden color with not much head at all.

The aroma is all spice. Coriander, lemon zest, honey, all present over a faint floral hop smell. The flavor is very similar to the aroma. Honey is pretty dominant then receding to the floral hop notes. It's pretty tasty but nothing revolutionary to me.

The beer has a decent mouthfeel, and there is good carbonation despite the lack of head. This is without a doubt an above average beer in the grand scheme of things. It is certainly one I'd consider drinking again, and a brewery I'm looking forward to trying more beer from.

My rating: B

Monday, June 27, 2011

Beer Links & Events for June 27th!

Hey everyone, time for a few links and events about beer in town...

First on the agenda... tomorrow night (June 28th) there will be an international beer dinner at The Londoner on Sherwood Forest.  I never really thought about it before, but that's the perfect street for a British themed pub.  It's a $65 event, but it features a 5-course meal with each course being paired with a Belgian ale.

Also, as part of the first annual Baton Rouge Beer Fest, The Londoner will be hosting the homebrew competition on Friday, July 1 from 8-10 PM.  

The main event of the Baton Rouge Beer Fest will be Saturday, July 2 from 1-4 PM at the Baton Rouge River Center.  Tickets are $40 in advance or $45 at the door and the event benefits Dreams Come True of Louisiana.  So if you're looking for something to do Saturday afternoon, give it a look!

Also, rumor has it that Jolly Pumpkin (@farmhouseale) beers are in our market now and can be found at some of the usual places like The Cove, Calandro's and Whole Foods.  They are a very highly regarded brewery out of Michigan, and I'm excited to get my hands on some and give it a try!

Cheers, and always drink responsibly.  

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review: Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA

Time for a quick beer review Saturday... I hope you are all grabbing a beer of your choice later tonight!  Or this afternoon, that's cool... I'm not judging.  This featured beer was brought back to me from Pensacola by Jay of Bite And, so thanks to him for hooking a brother up!  
This stunning beer pictured to the left is coming to you from Terrapin Beer Company (@terrapinbeerco) out of Athens, GA.  Yeah, they may suck at football up there, but they do have some pretty good beer.  I've had a few Terrapin beers before including the So Fresh & So Green, Green ale, and they almost always are winners.  (#WINNING)  This one is their Hopsecutioner IPA, a standard year-round offering although a little strong at 7.2% abv.  Sounds good to me, I like strong beers.
This one pours a clear orange color, from a 12 oz. bottle into an RSAK pint glass. It has a decent sized bubbly head with good retention and lacing.

The aroma is a nice blend of grapefruit and pine hops with a little underlay of sweet caramel malt. A very nice, model IPA aroma.  The flavor is dominated by the bitter and slightly sour grapefruit hop flavors. It's a little harsh and not as well balanced as the aroma, but still pretty damn tasty.

It's very well carbonated and medium body mouthfeel, with a little hit of a lingering bitter aftertaste.

Overall a good IPA. Definitely in the upper half of my IPA range.  Next time I'm passing through Georgia or Florida or even Alabama I believe, I might have to pick up a 6-pack of these.
My Rating: B+

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: BottleTree Blonde Ale

Time for another quickie here!  It turns out I'm pretty far behind on my basic reviews, so here's one on a beer that was given to me by the good guys at Mockler Beverage.  While on a tour of their facility a few months back they offered a handful of beers to try, and the Blonde Ale from BottleTree Beer Company out of North Carolina was one of the new ones for me!
After popping the cap off of the 12 ounce bottle I poured the brew into a stange glass.  It's a clear yellow with a finger worth of white head. Decent retention and lacing, but not overly impressive.

It has a grassy aroma, with little hints of hops. This beer smells more like a pilsener to me really. There is a little Belgian spice but not too much.

The taste is just like the aroma, earthy, nice hop bitterness, but a little funk too.

It's got a lot more body than expected, so higher marks there!  Overall I"m disappointed to say that this is a mediocre forgettable beer in my opinion.  I'd certainly try other brews from BottleTree if Mockler brings them into the market, but I won't need to pick this one up again.

My Rating: C-

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Tour Of Mockler Beverage!

I know, when you think Mockler Beverage, you think Anheuser-Busch.  I certainly do, and it's true that AB products make up the vast majority of their line.  However, they have also started to move more and more towards distributing local beers, imports, craft beers from the rest of the USA, and even non-beer products like energy drinks, wine, and liquor.  They distribute beer for the only brewery in Baton Rouge, Tin Roof, and recently brought Saint Arnold into the Baton Rouge market.  What really impressed me, though, is how large of an operation it all is.

Jay and I were able to meet with Jacob Ruiz, John Schiller, and Joya from Mockler a couple of weeks ago for a tour of the facility and some talks about the beer industry as a whole. After some introductions and a brief chat we headed to the distribution center.  All I can say is, what an operation!  The logistics of moving so much beer to so many places are pretty incredible, and apparently it's all a pretty quick turnaround, with nothing hanging out in the warehouse for more than a few days.

Pallets of sorted beers awaiting distribution to specific stores.
Pallets of beers awaiting sorting into individual orders for stores.
After the tour of the distribution side of things it was time for a quick run through the rest of the office, including the impressive marketing department, then up to the break room to enjoy some beers and talk beer with the Mockler reps!  The first thing that struck me about the break room, other than how nice it was, was that of their 4 beers on tap, none were AB products.  They had the Tin Roof Perfect Tin Amber, the Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal Pale Ale, the Saint Arnold Spring Bock, and Stella Artois all available. 

Mockler Beverage break room.

I was pleasantly surprised that the Mockler staff  really does seem to be interested in promoting the craft beer in Baton Rouge, and adding to their portfolio of craft brands.  Obviously the AB products are still going to be their bread & butter, but it's nice to see them working with breweries like Tin Roof and Saint Arnold to get more craft products into our market.  It's a nice departure from a few years back when Mockler and other AB distributors were contractually obligated to distribute AB products only. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

IPA Time At The Black Labrador Pub In Houston

A few trips ago to Houston I met up with some friends at The Black Labrador Pub for some beer and dinner... I knew they didn't have the best beer selection around but they DID have a couple of good IPAs available, including one I had never tried before.  To kick it off, I went for that new one, the Bridgeport IPA from the Bridgeport Brewery (@bridgeportbrew) out of Portland, Oregon.  I had previously tried the Hop Czar IPA from these guys and enjoyed it, so why not try a new one?

Served on-tap... in a standard pint glass.  It was a clear amber color, with a finger or two of foamy white head. Pretty good retention and lacing!

It had a nice citrus hop smell, not too rough... and a very palatable hop-dominated flavor. A very solid IPA and a good start to the evening!

After that I went for a Hardcore IPA from Brewdog out of Scotland.  This was a much hoppier and more bitter IPA, that I would recommend to any hop heads out there.  It only came in bottles (despite the picture... that's the bottle label on a pint glass!) but was worth the price.  The two IPAs were a great compliment to good friends and some fish & chips.

Black Labrador Pub on Urbanspoon

Review: Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot

Now for a quick review of a beer I picked up at Spec's in Houston.  This one is the Wilco Tango Foxtrot imperial brown ale from the Lagunitas Brewing Company (@lagunitasbruhws) checking in at 7.83% alcohol.  I've long been a fan of Lagunitas because they are some of the cheaper bombers to come across when browsing the beer aisles in Spec's.  According to Lagunitas it was intended to be a follow up to their 2009 Correction Ale called the 2010 Recovery Ale, but... well... the economy hasn't really recovered, so they went with the Wilco Tango Foxtrot, a rather obvious play on words/abbreviations.  Good name for a beer, in my opinion! 

For this one I poured from a bomber into a pint glass... it's a clear copper color with about an inch of slightly off-white head. It has great retention with a little lacing.

The first hint on the aroma is mild hops, then a warmth of caramel malts and booze... very nice.  The taste is more of the same... maybe a little less hoppy than the aroma but the malts aren't on top either. The boozy alcohol flavor doesn't come through as much as on the nose.  This is definitely a good example of an imperial brown ale, a style that isn't defined on BeerAdvocate.  I've tried one other imperial brown ale recently, the Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale, and it also impressed me as a malty high alcohol brew.

Feels good on the tongue... pretty damn drinkable for a relatively high abv beer. It's not the best beer ever, but still tasty and one I'd recommend on a beer run to our neighbors to the West.  Pick up this one and some others from Lagunitas and you will not be disappointed.

My Rating: B+

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #10 And #11

Ah, Saint Arnold... it's nice to have this Houston brewery in the Baton Rouge market these days, even if our selections are limited.  Currently we get the Lawnmower year-round, and then the various seasonal offerings such as the Summer Pils (current), Oktoberfest, Christmas Ale, and Winter Ale.  Fortunately though, thanks to the guys at Mockler, we also got a few cases of the Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #11.  As soon as I heard this, it was off to Calandro's to pick up a few and enjoy.  And then, a friend of Jay's hooked him up with some of the Divine Reserve #10, and he was nice enough to share!  You won't be able to find any of these in stores anymore, but if anyone wants a bottle of the #11, let me know and I'll trade for some other good beer!

First, since I tried this one earlier, the Divine Reserve #11, a double IPA.  I first had a few of these with Mandi, then tried it on my own to give it a proper review.  I poured from a 12oz. bottle into a Saint Arnold pint glass... it's a clear amber color with a large bubbly white head. Great retention but not a lot of lacing.

It has an extremely hop-forward aroma, with a nice blend of grapefruit and pine smells. There's not much else there, but it's still pretty appetizing.

The taste is more of the same... not much malt but a lot of hop deliciousness. A hophead would love this one, someone that's not big hop fan would probably be a little put off, but hopefully someone that's not a hop lover would not be buying double IPAs!  Or if you just want to jump into the deep end, go for it!

It's a little thin in the mouth, and the hops produce a pretty strong bitter aftertaste. I like it, but it doesn't quite live up to the incredible hype/demand that these Divine Reserve releases receive.
My Rating: B+

A couple of weeks later I had the opportunity to try the Divine Reserve #10, an English-style Barleywine.  This was a real treat as I totally missed out when it was released in 2010.

I poured this one into a goblet, it's a murky copper color with not much head. Decent retention though and nice swirls on the surface.

It has a strongly boozy aroma, with a malt dominance. Spicy but not a lot of hops.

Now as for the taste, better! There are definitely some hops here and a real booze kick at the end. I wish I could compare to a fresh bottle but I enjoyed it regardless.

Pretty decent mouthfeel, the most overwhelming thing about this one is the alcohol presence. It feels almost as boozy as some higher gravity beers I've tried.  Good beer, but I've had better barleywines recently. 

My Rating: B+

Unfortunately I don't think these beers quite live up to the hype placed upon them.  They were both very good beers, as B+ ratings are nothing to scoff at, but they weren't outstanding either.  That being said, I'll be all over the #12 when it comes out next year!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Celebrate Father's Day With Zea Rotisserie & Brewery

Apparently Zea restaurants are stepping up their Father's Day game this year, with FREE BEER!  Yeah, that's right, apparently for every father that comes in, they receive a free 4-pack of the Zea custom beer with two entrees ordered.  Zea offers four unique beers in their restaurants, and I recently received one of these 4-packs to give them a try.  This offer is good at all the New Orleans area locations, as well as Covington, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.  Sounds like a pretty cool promotion to me, but now let's look into the beers themselves...

I had previously had an opportunity to sample the Zea lineup at the Top Of The Hops festival in Lafayette, so unfortunately these aren't new ones for me, but this is a good chance to give them a proper reviewing.  It's hard to accurately review beers at a large festival... it was tough enough to keep track of all the beers I tried, let alone critique them.  I suppose if I wanted to take each sample, sit down and examine the characteristics, take in the aroma and savor the taste I could... but that would require WAY too much effort.  The point of a beer festival is to have a good time with friends and enjoy a lot of new and interesting beers, not make it a study session.  So, thanks again to Emily with Gambel Communications and Zea Restaurants for a chance to give these beers the proper write-up!

I decided to try these from lighter to darker, and up first was the Clearview Gold Lager, a light kölsch-style lager that's a definite step up from the domestic adjunct lagers we typically see.  It had a bit of a pear flavor, and the heavy carbonation almost gave it a cider feel.  I think this one would be a big hit among beer drinkers looking to get into craft beer but afraid of the dark side.

The second beer I tried was the Zea Amber Lager, a Vienna-style lager with a strong caramel malt base and a lot of biscuit flavor. There still wasn't a lot of hop profile, but the malts packed quite a flavor punch and gave this beer a good solid amber lager flavor.  All in all another good beer, and a slight step up from the Clearview Gold in my opinion.

As a side note... all of these beers are brewed by Heiner Brau over in Covington, but according to the Zea original recipes.  Unfortunately a true "brew-pub" where one entity brews their own beer for sale at the pub is illegal in Louisiana.  We need to work on that.

Beer #3 was the one I was the most excited for, the Category 5 Pale Ale.  American Pale Ales are one of my favorite styles currently, so I was interested to see how one of the locals would stack up.  There are a few other local pale ales, the Abita Restoration Ale, the Bayou Teche LA 31, and the Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal being three examples, but there's nothing wrong with another local example of a classic style.  The aroma is strong with caramel malts but not too hoppy. It really could use a little more hops to achieve the desired balance.  The flavor has a better hop profile and much more balance. The caramel malt is still strong but there's enough hop flavor to call this a solid pale ale. 

Last but not least, the Ponchartrain Porter, not to be confused with Covington's Ponchartrain Pilsner.  It's a dark brown color with a finger or so of off-white head.  It had a great porter aroma, coffee and chocolate and roasted malt notes. Spot on with the nose.  The taste was a little muted like a lot of porters, but still quite nice. The roasted malt notes came out the strongest, lending a thick bitterness to the end of the sip. It was surprisingly my favorite of the four Zea beers.  Very well done.

All in all, some good beers.  They aren't going to blow the real nerds away but if your Dad is tired of drinking the same old crap, bring him to Zea and he just might enjoy a few of these local brews.

Review: Sierra Nevada Ovila Dubbel

Time for another beer review... this time the Sierra Nevada Ovila Dubbel.  I picked up a few of these from Marcello's in BR when it was first released.  It's a bit weird to see a brewery like Sierra Nevada (@sierranevada), known for West Coast hoppy beers, to go after a Belgian style.  I know it's not their first Belgian-style ale, but it's close to it, and it's the first one I've ever tried.  Knowing Sierra Nevada, it's going to be a little more hoppy than a typical dubbel, but there's not necessarily anything wrong with that! 

Now... on to the beer!  It has a nice pop to the cork, and it pours a murky deep orange color with a couple fingers of off-white head. It dissipated pretty quick but left some nice creamy pooling.

The smell is a little weird to me. The first thing I noticed is a little malt sweetness then a bit of floral hops. Definitely a little more hoppy than a typical dubbel, as expected. The taste is a lot like the aroma except the malt is more forward than the hops. The alcohol content is noticeable and the floral hops are still there in the background.

I think this one will really age well, so I'll be sure to cellar a bottle and re-visit later.  Overall I'm impressed. This is a pretty fine effort from Sierra Nevada.
I know there are still a few cases of this beer at Calandro's... so it's not too late if you want to grab a few.  Try one now, and let the other one sit a few months and see how it ages.

My Rating: B+

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quick Review: Klosterbrauerie Weisenohe Monk's Christmas

Many thanks to Jeremy Spikes, who received some beers from one of his clients and decided that I was worthy of sharing with.  One of those that he had was one I hadn't tried before, the Monk's Christmas from the German brewery Klosterbrauerie Weisenohe.  Haven't heard of that brewery?  Yeah... well until then I hadn't either, and as far as I know this is the first beer from them I've ever seen.  I do know that they have a website, but it's all in German and I don't really speak German past 'danke', 'bier', and 'brauerie.'  They are a Bavarian brewery as best I can tell though... and I do typically like Bavarian beer, so let's dive in.
I poured from the 16.9 ounce flip-top into an imperial pint glass... can't go wrong with that extra 4.9 ounces!  (For those curious, 16.9 ounces = .5 liters, and they use the crazy "metric system" over in Germany.)  It's a deep red color with a huge slightly off-white head. Pretty good retention and lacing... not bad considering this one has probably not been stored properly.  Of the three bottles two were missing labels, so that indicates a lot of humidity to me.
It's got a pretty nice sweet malty aroma, lots of caramel and a little honey.  The taste is a little thin, with basically the same malt profile. It's tasty but weaker than the aroma.  Still a very nice beer and for a free one, I'm not bitching!

The mouthfeel is a little thin, but it's still good.  I'm liking this beer, pretty decent overall.  Thanks again to Jeremy for sharing, always nice to try something completely new including the brewery.
My Rating: B