Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quick Riffs: Three Western Beers and Some British Dude

How’s ‘bout some Quick Riffs to keep my hand in the game, eh?

Sonoran Brewing
Victorian India Pale Ale
Sampled at the Mellow Mushroom on Happy Valley Road and I-17
(Bar sampling – sorry no photo.)

Even before making the ridiculous commitment to concentrate on only western beers, I’ve been eager to try local beers but I don’t believe I’ve sampled any of their products before. Here’s the dope straight from the notebook:

A bit dark for an IPA – I like the look of it. Steady beading with small bubbles. Sturdy looking off white head, heavy, heavy lacing. No smell of pineapple or citrus or sawdust. There’s definitely a nutty roasted component but if I were to do a blind tasting on this I would not peg it as an IPA. This is good but to me it misses the mark stylistically – more like an amber ale I think.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t probably going to have at least one more glass of this, since it may be part of the Mellow Mushroom’s Beer Club 75 required beers. Yeah, I’ll get around to joining that at some point.

Sierra Nevada
Glissade Golden Bock

I know “bock” is somehow related to the German word for “goat” and I’ve often associated “bock” beers with the prospect of getting head-butted in the nads by a goat (is it “nads” or “knads” or maybe “nards”?). But my perceptions are frequently wrong. This one weighs in at a simple 6.4% abv so there’s no nad-, knad- or nard head butting to speak of. Here’s the scoop on this goat:
Clear, light gold color with a thin white head. Smells nice; sweet vaguely grainy. Thicker mouth feel than I expected. Grainy but robust taste. Somewhat dry at the finish. Puts me in mind of what our dad’s beers probably tasted like back in the good old days.

I’d heard some negative comments about this one and for sure it’s not what you’d expect from Sierra Nevada in terms of taste and style, however in the area of quality and taste, it’s the typical top notch product most of us have come to expect from the Sierra Nevada crew. I’ll try it again.

Darwin Brewery (Durham, England)
Original Flag Porter

Sure, not a “Western Beer” but a unique thing to sample. Picked up a single at Total Wine back in early January and sampled it on January 9th. The notes for that date read: Brown like coffee, not opaque. Fair head, quickly gone. No beading visible. Malty smelling, thin mouth feel. Definitely comes across as a porter but the actual taste is weak – faintly roasted but not much else. I can quickly name 5 or six that are better. (Deschutes, Alaskan, Flying Dog, Stone…that’s four right off the top of my noggin.)

This beer’s claim to fame is some old yeast that was apparently dredged up from a sunken ship in the English Channel or Thames River. I love a cool story and that’s a cool story, so this one passes in my book, but I’m wondering why the porter isn’t listed on Darwin’s website.

What the heck was I drinking a year ago?

Alaskan Smoked Porter 2008
From the beer notebook entry for February 25, 2009:
Alaskan Smoked Porter 2008. Pours dark with a tan head. Smells like cigarette smoke, maybe fish. Smokiness is immediately obvious. Medium thick mouth feel. Roasted, sooty finish. Woody and rich.

As an endorsement of this terrific beer, I’ll simply say that I’ve already had some of the 2009 vintage. Plan to get some more, too.

My first instinct is to be pissed off….

Just got wind of the fact that Deschutes has chosen to discontinue their Cinder Cone Red and replace it with the Red Chair NWPA. I’ll be in therapy if you need me.

Wait, before I hit the therapist’s couch, I’m off to anyplace that stocks six-packs of this terrific endangered species! Know a place that stocks it in the greater Phoenix area, let me know…PLEASE.

Meanwhile. A picture from happier times…..ahhh.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Housekeeping: Post #140

Sidebar Stuff
Those of you reading this with one eye open may not have noticed that I’ve broken the blog roll into two parts. “Regular” beer blogs will continue to be shown where they’ve always been shown, but now I’ve also got a list of “Western Beer Blogs.”

Currently I’ve placed the blogs that I know originate west of the western Kansas border in the Western Beer Blogs list and there’s still a bit of clean up and adjustment to be made there, but it’s a start. Those of you who maintain a beer blog that’s based in the Western U.S. please let me know and I’ll put you on that list, for sure. Likewise if you know of a Western beer blog that I’ve missed, please say the word.

You’ll also note that I’ve posted a dozen or more new photos in the Beer Rant’s Beer Photos section (at left). I’ve gotten behind on my housekeeping here lately and didn’t realize there were a number of nice (I think) beer photos stacked up on the hard drive.

I’ve also dropkicked the 2009 Gimmick Poll Results to clear up space on the sidebar. The top vote getters were “drink only beers from western states” (which I’m trying to do), and “post guest columns by other beer bloggers” (which I’m also working to address).

I got a coupon!
Evidently the Beer Fates were watching over me when I complained about the dearth of beer coupons in the Total Wine flyers lately. What did I find in the very next Total Wine flyer? Well an honest-to-goodness $1 off coupon, good for any 4-pack or 6-pack of beer priced at $6.99 or more (excluding products whose prices end in “7”…whatever).

I’m in that strange time of year here at Beer Rant HQ, folks. The weather is cooperating and the ambient daytime temperature is in the 50’s so I can stock up on beer. I’m also heading in to that time of year when the in-laws visit and that’s the time of year when there’s no beer drinking while the folks are around. (Granted, I can make all the stops at Old World Brewery that I want to.) The dilemma: Balancing the amount of beers in the ready room (the fridge) versus the number of days I have until the folks actually arrive. I’m told wheels down this trip will be Monday or Tuesday of next week so I’m carefully balancing out what’s in the garage cabinet against what’s chilling in the batter’s box. And in keeping with this bit of a bind, I only picked up two six-packs today at Total Wine (both qualified for the $1 off, of course). What’d I get? Well, a six pack of Kalamazoo Stout from Bells Brewing and a six-pack of Odell Red Ale. One I know (Kalamazoo Stout) and one’s new to me (Red Ale). I figure, even if I’m wrong, I’ll only be half wrong! (Yes, the Bells is not a Western Beer. I didn't say I'd give up "other" beers completely.)

I’d planned to toss in some Quick Riffs but this is already long enough. Check back for some Quick Riffs next time around.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Good People Drink....Grolsch?" Really, Dr. Thompson?

February 20th marks five years since the death of Hunter S. Thompson.

Each year, as the Super Bowl approaches, occurs, then recedes into faded memory, I find myself giving a thought or two to the train wreck that was Hunter S. Thompson. This year, I’ve just finished reading the book Gonzo by Jann Wenner and some other dude whose name escapes me at the moment. Evidently, Thompson’s widow was not too happy with the book but I have to think it must be a pretty honest appraisal of the nutty Doctor since it includes dozens of recollections from his son Juan. Bottom line: Old HST was a lot of fun when he wanted to be, but damn he was a turd a fair share of the time, too. (Gosh, what middle-aged man hasn't said that about his own father a time or two.)

For those of you wanting to see last year’s screed on Doctor Thompson and a special beer dedicated to his good name and questionable legacy, click HERE!

In addition to knocking Hunter Thompson down a peg or two in my estimation, the book Gonzo also revealed what were, supposedly, Thompson’s favorite beers. Oddly enough, Heineken, Molson and Grolsch appear in the text as being on the good Doctor’s short list of yummy, fermented adult beverages. (Never mind that he was evidently a walking medicine chest of assorted illegal and legal drugs.)

So, while I’d planned to have another bottle of Gonzo Imperial Porter this year in honor of Hunter S. Thompson, I think it more appropriate that I knock back a sample of something he might have appreciated a bit more in his day. (Despite the quote attributed to Thompson: "Good people drink good beer.")

Grolsch Premium Lager

Let me just start by saying that no good beer that’s ever passed my lips had the words “premium lager” printed on the label. And let me add that no beer that I’ve ever seen sporting the handle “premium lager” has been without some sort of slick packaging whiz bang – usually a foil wrapped top. Grolsch is no different. Doc Thompson reportedly fancied Grolsch because of the nifty flip top bottles in which the beer is packaged. The fact that Thompson wasn’t a paragon of moderation leads me to ask, why he would care to reseal a bottle of beer, but I suppose when your hands are occupied with running an IBM Selectric typewriter, fending off inquisitive editors, firing up the odd doobie and popping the occasional hit of acid, it pays to have beer bottles that can be re-sealed.

The stuff pours a clear golden color with a thin white head. It smells sour and tastes of sour grain – perhaps corn. It’s thirst quenching and at just 5% abv a decent session beer if you’re not too hung up on taste or style. Currently, the swing top bottle is about all this one has going for it. Perhaps the marketing crew at Grolsch could capitalize on the fact that Hunter S. Thompson drank their beer. If nothing else, I plan to drop the folks at Flying Dog a note and strongly urge them to introduce a line of their Imperial Porter in flip top bottles. How cool would that be?

Postscript: The Very Crap He Would Have Despised.

Perhaps it’s a quirk of my nature that I’d rather read about famous writers than read what they’ve written. It’s true for Hemingway and Abbey and it’s definitely true for this nut job Thompson. It’s often difficult to divine meaning from their written word, but it’s a damned straightforward proposition to gather meaning (and sometimes inspiration) from their lives. As a result, my radar is far more acute in picking up references to the author and his persona than references to his works. Example: ambling the bright aisles of a local Target store I espied a strange little plastic skateboard (action?) figure with the handle “Hunter.” Given that this squat little plastic figure sported a slouch hat, Hawaiian shirt and a briefcase with “I (heart) L.V.” on the side, it was clear that what this was: a Hunter Thompson rip off! And all the more pathetic are the good Doctor’s words echoing from beyond the grave: “…nobody grows up wishing to be a comic strip character…” (I’m curious to know if the Hunter Thompson estate knows about this. The packaging doesn’t include any reference to Thompson or the Thompson post-mortem machine.) I bought the little dust collector because it was on sale and because it’s obviously meant to represent Hunter S. Thompson.

Maybe in the grand karmic scheme, it’s something of a punishment for the wacky Doctor Thompson, to be reborn as a plastic skateboard figurine in atonement for drinking Grolsch, Molson and Heineken. That and the drugs.

Here’s a recent Appraisal of Hunter S. Thompson’s legacy.

The revelations in Gonzo not withstanding, still hope to see you around, Doc.

For those of you with more than a passing interest, I’d strongly recommend Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson by Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour. And don’t pay $30 for the damned thing either; it can be had for about 7 bucks if you look around.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fun (and beer) At Old World Brewery

Dropped by Old World Brewery after work yesterday and managed to keep to my one beer promise and get back to Beer Rant HQ before sundown, which is nice. I didn’t try the anniversary ale, though I’d planned to originally, I just can’t keep away from that Dark Knight Porter of theirs and dang if I ain’t glad I did this time.

The current batch of porter is evidently the one they intend to submit for a major competition and I believe it’s one of the better Dark Knight Porter’s I’ve sampled there, but that’s just the tip of the tap room iceberg really.

After every visit to Old World I scratch my head and marvel at my good fortune for having a micro/craft brewery so close to the homestead. In the short hour I was there I was able to chat in the back brewing area with one of the owners about beer and bands, knock back a pleasant pint of porter chatting with the brewer and a buddy from work, peruse a recent issue of Beer Advocate magazine that I pulled from a stack of brewing related publications on the bar, sample the latest tapping of the Old World Wit (It was great but I got the stink eye from Matt when I called it an upscale Blue Moon) and share in the sampling from a bomber of Dark Knight Porter that had spent the previous week or so rolling around in the bed of the owner’s truck. To finish, I bought a bomber of Porter for myself (presumably not one that was a truck bed experiment) and a special First Anniversary Edition pint glass.

Now where the hell can you get that sort of fun along with a pint of beer, anywhere?

The Old World crew are off to the Arizona Strong Ale Festival tomorrow and I wish them all the very best. Me, I’ll be sofa shopping with Mrs. Beer Rant. Evidently, the couch we got as a wedding gift oh these many years ago is no longer up to speed. On the bright side, we’ll be in close proximity to Total Wine and Gordon Biersch...and the grandkids!

Incidentally, the issue of Beer Advocate that I was scanning had a page devoted to the top misunderstood beers or some such and you know they actually included an entry for that vile, nasty Chili Beer from Arizona (I think it's brewed in Mexico, but labeled as an Arizona beer to give me one more thing to be proud of, I guess.) If you doubt for one second that I abhor and detest this vile travesty of a beer, see my POST from May of 2008.

In the Tank: Kona Pipeline Porter (Probably the last one this year, folks.)
On the Desk: Boulder Brewing Sundance Amber Ale (eh, it's okay.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Happy 1st Birthday Old World Brewery!

I’m going to toss this out there, even though I’m not even sure this beer is still available. (Last week [or so] I dropped Matt an email and he said they still had some left, so….)

I guess I average about two visits a month to Old World Brewery, just up the road from Beer Rant HQ and that’s paltry little and a pathetically poor performance given that I could damned near walk to the place for crap’s sake!

Scotland, The Brave
In any event, the most recent offering from the crew at Old World is a delightful anniversary ale called Highlander Scotch Ale. Weighing in at an inspired 8% abv, this highlander may not arrive with half its face painted blue, but after knocking back a couple, you may find yourself waking up with bruises and face paint.

Here are my notes from the first sampling back on January 13th:
There is no alcohol bite up front. Smells like a bit like porter. Smooth taste with a definite warming effect. Definitely roasted in the taste and malty dark. Slightly amber, not opaque. Robust head when agitated with medium to light lacing.

The literature says it’s “complex” but it seems straightforward to me. There’s a definite buzz to this right off the bat. Served in a 10-ounce snifter for $5 with growler’s going for $17 and growler refills for $10.

Ten ounces may seem like a short snort, but be patient and work your way slowly to the bottom of the snifter and you’ll be rewarded.

My beer notebook shows that three days after this initial sampling, I was back to have a growler filled. What better endorsement can there be than a repeat purchase?

I’d imagine the Highlander Scotch Ale is just about gone and I’m not saying that to incite rancor among the beer folk – it’s just a statement of fact. In the interest of full, detailed and honest research, I’ll endeavor to make a stop at Old World later this week to see what’s flowing from the taps. Geez, the lengths to which I’ll go to fill this space with beer drivel.

Coming Up:

“The Super Bowl’s over, think I’ll shoot myself.” Or “Something on Hunter S. Thompson…. I just don’t know what.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We were hit with a late afternoon sun shower here at Beer Rant HQ today. The sun hung low in the sky and a rainbow appeared in the east. Nice.

I haven’t posted an honest to goodness beer review in quite a while so I think comments on a noteworthy western beer are in order.

Green Flash Brewing
I remember the first Green Flash product I sampled was from a little convenience store down on the pier, just outside main post at Camp Pendleton. Mrs. Beer Rant and I spent a good deal of time in California visiting our daughter and her family a couple years back and of course during those visits we needed to eat and drink. There is a terrific little pizza joint down at the pier and it’s the sort of pizza place that, despite the fact that they goof up your order nearly every time, you still love their pizza so much you don’t care if it’s wrong and you keep going back for more! Well, just around the corner from this pizza place was a little convenience store and I remember the first two six packs I bought there were from Green Flash and Ballast Point. The same fellow seemed to be running the place every time I stopped in – a strangely happy guy, a bit hip, perhaps a doper but always with an easy smile and a kind word or two for an out of town square rambling about local beers. I wish him the best wherever he is.

I didn’t get this particular bottle of Green Flash Stout from a little convenience store on the pier; I picked it up closer to Beer Rant HQ – I think at Total Wine – and I believe it’s the best of the Green Flash product I’ve tried so far.

Beer book notes read thus: Malty, roasted smell. Opaque brown with a robust, tan head. Initially sooty, smoky tasting going into a burnt/roast coffee taste. Medium to thick mouth feel.

This one tips the scale at a respectable 8.8% abv so it’s no guzzling beer but by the same token, I don’t recall that this bomber sized serving knocked me on my keester, either. I liked this one and I'll seek it out again.

Here’s what other, more sagacious beer folk have to say about Green Flash Stout:

If a “98” is a high rating, then I guess the boffins over at Rate Beer really like this one, too.

Booze Reviews also had nice things to say about Green Flash Stout, as did a bunch of folks who posted comments.

The masses over at Beer Advocate rate it a B+ (with only two reviewers checking in), and although “the brothers” haven’t bothered to sample this they’re eagerly waiting for you so send them a sample. (Ah, gotta love beer welfare.)

For you Green Flash obsessives out there, here’s the link to their WEBSITE.

I’m a little peeved at:
The local Gordon Biersch outlet for sending me an email reminder about tonight’s tapping party….at 4 PM today. Bit late folks!

The local Total Wine chain for sending yet another store catalog without a single beer coupon. Seems when they first rolled into town there was a dollar off coupon for six packs of beer in the paper every week. Lately? Nothing. Not to worry, I’ll still swing through there to get those rare and unusual things and the odd bargain now and then, too.

I’m on cloud nine because:
I stumbled on bombers of Nogne O Winter Ale at a local specialty store for the bargain basement price of $3! Three bucks, people! That’s less than half the going rate at Total Wine. I snagged 24 bottles. It’s grand!

The local Sunflower Market continues to have nifty beer sales in their weekly mail flyer. This week, two six packs of Boulder Beer for $10. Probably grab a couple of those and squirrel them into the garage locker. Twelve packs of Session Lager (regular and black) for $8.99. Fun. I always check their advertisements!

By the way, Happy Birthday Norman Rockwell!

Colorado Beer Facts

Denver Colorado Beer Facts