Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lagunitas IPA kicked my ass, Hurricane Irene can kiss my.....

Hurricane Irene visited the east coast this past weekend, wrecking havoc with my plans to end the month with reviews of several awesome IPA's.

While stocking up for a major storm, I found it difficult to justify including more than one beer on my list of essential supplies. Along with food, and batteries, one beer was a no brainer, but buying two, at the expense of, say bread and canned goods, was probably not a good idea.

So after the power went out, (while I was first attempting this post), and after I watched Irene do this to my car (see photo), and after I sat on the couch hoping the blue screen of death would eventually go away and let my computer live (it did, finally!), it is with great pleasure that I share with you my review of....

Lagunitas IPA
Lagunitas Brewing, Petaluma, CA
6.2% ABV, 49 IBUs

The bottle thanks you for choosing to spend time with this "homicidally hoppy" brew, and also states "beer speaks. People mumble", which immediately endeared the folks at Lagunitas Brewing to me, before I even opened a bottle.

This beer pours a beautiful copper color, with a finger of loose, white head that dissipates some, but still leaves enough to maintain a constant cling to the interior of the glass.

Smell is fantastically hoppy, almost pungently so. If you're a hop head like me, this is beer nirvana.

Mouthfeel is full bodied, with moderate carbonation and fuzziness on the tongue.

Taste is strong piney hops. Its a full blown hop flavor- the Centenial and Cascade hops overwhelm the sweet malt backbone, in a good way. There's a mild spice as well, not sure where its coming from, but all the elements play wonderfully in the glass.

Finish is mildly bitter, grapefruit like I'll say, but its balanced off by the sweetness of the malts.

The Lagunitas web site will say this beer is nicely balanced, but I found it awesomely unbalanced in favor of the hops.

This is an AWESOME IPA. I love the color, the smell, and the taste. You get a full hop taste experience in smell, color, taste, and finish. This might be my new favorite session IPA, its that darn good. An absolutely delicious beer.

I give this beer a 4-4.5 on my 1-5 scale.

We interupt this blog due to Hurricane Irene....

I was attempting to write the latest IPA month post when Hurricane Irene rudely knocked out my power, bringing the awesome blue screen of death to my home computer.

After that, she knocked a tree down onto my car. While I was looking out the window, so I could see the whole thing happening..

So, I poured myself a Lagunita's IPA, seen here,  (which is totally awesome by the way- full review is forthcoming..) and sat my butt on the couch, where I listened to my 2 year old repeatedly yell at the wind to "be quiet!".

More beer blog coming at you as soon as we resolve our technical difficulties...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dogfish Head Burton Baton- Oak Aged Imperial IPA

IPA month on Man Drinks Beer continues with one of my favorite breweries- Dogfish Head, and their outstanding Burton Baton.

My mother in law actually brought this beer up on a recent visit. Its becoming a habit of hers to bring good beer for us to sample. She may have to visit more often.

Burton Baton 
Dogfish Head Brewery, Rehoboth Beach, DE
10% ABV

This beer is actually a blend of an English Style Old Ale and an Imperial IPA. The two beers are fermented separately in stainless steel tanks, and then blended together and aged in a 10,000 gallon oak tank. They age for a month on the oak. Its brewed three times a year, according to the Dogfish Head web site.

This beer pours a brackish, cloudy brown, with a tight, thick white head. (Oak aging tends to produce a cloudy appearance, so this is expected)

Smell is sweet. I suspect its the vanilla notes that the beer drew out of the wood in the oak tank, and also perhaps, from some darker roasted malts that really bring out the sugars in the malts, but I'm guessing here. Alcohol is also detectable, but its not a big alcohol smell, just a hint.

Mouthfeel is full bodied, creamy, with some warm alcohol and vanilla sensations on the tongue.

Taste is, in a word, smoooooooth (not a typo). This beer is super mellow, with a mild vanilla sweetness from the oak aging. Malt and hops are completely mellowed by the wood tanks. Hops are flowery, although hard to detect, and their bitterness is gone. Malts are sweet, with a woody spiciness. Its a complex taste, but awesome nonetheless. Beware of the alcohol as well, as the oak tanks also subdue the alcohol taste, but not the percentage.

Overall, I give this beer a 4+ on my scale of 1-5.

The English Style Pale Ale really gives a richer, fuller body to the Imperial IPA, and the oak aging mellows them both. This is a really tasty beer, almost a desert type beer thanks to it's sweetness. 

Note-Hop and malt varieties used in this beer were not listed on the brewers web site, so they are not included here. My apologies.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

IPA Month Continues with Leatherlips IPA- Haverhill Brewery

I began this entry with great expectations.

Haverhill Brewery's "Leatherlips IPA" came to me highly recommended by an employee of an excellent craft beer store.  I was vacillating between this and another IPA, and the clerk said the Leather Lips was the better brew, so I bought it.

Leatherlips IPA
Haverhill Brewery, Haverhill, MA
5% ABV

Along with several other Haverhill brews, this one has an image of a woman on the bottle. And, once again, it should have been a warning. Specifically, it should bring to mind this warning-

If they need a chick on the bottle to get attention, perhaps the stuff inside isn't quite up to par?


The beer pours a nice amber/orange, clear, with a thin white head.

Smell is very nice- moderate floral hops are intriguing, but not overpowering. It smells like an IPA should, albeit a bit more modestly than some.

Mouthfeel gives me my first warning- it feels... flat, despite the bubbles I can clearly see in the glass. Its got a very light body, with a lack of texture. Its not flat, but it feels that way.

Taste is disappointing. For a brew with such a good hop smell, the hop taste, for me,  is surprisingly meek. They are there- Chinook, Newport, Nugget, Cascade, and Centennia, according to their web site- but its almost as if they've been watered down. You get some grapefruit like citrus bitterness, which is the strongest component, and even that, at 50 IBU's, isn't strong for an American IPA. Finish is mildly bitter.

This beer bummed me out. I just can't reconcile the discrepancy between the nice hop smell and the weak, watery taste. After some thought, I'm thinking that perhaps this is designed to be an entry level beer for non craft drinkers, an attempt to bring them into the craft world and not over whelm them. In that regard, it works very well and makes a lot of sense. Its the only way I can explain how such a hyped brew can be such a downer. I give this beer a 2 out 5, and I give you a warning....

Beware the Red Head...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Julios Belgian Beer Fest

I attended Julio's Liquors annual Belgian Beer fest on Sunday.

This was my first Julio's event, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I mean, c'mon, it's a liquor store, how big can this thing be?

I met my erstwhile drinking buddy Daupha at the door. After getting my BRIGHT lime green wristband (at a liquor store tasting? Hmm), I was handed a tasting glass, a pencil, and a list of all the beers available for tasting.

It was quite the list:
  • 13 tables. 
  • at least 50 some odd beers. 
  • food from the new restaurant across the street
  • All free...
This made me understand the need for a wristband.

We consulted the list. Slightly overwhlemed by the options, we did what anyone would do. We started with table #1, which listed among its many offerings an intriguing Belgian IPA that I wanted to try. As the attendant handed me glass, he asked me for a "ticket".

What ticket I asked? The one on my wristband I was informed. I took a look, and sure enough, there were 10 numbered, pull-off tabs on my BRIGHT lime green wristband. D'oh! So there's the catch. There was a 10 sample limit. This was bad. The first guy barely lined the sample glass, I got minimum taste, and I was down to 9 tabs.

We needed a strategy.

We observed the lines more closely. Proceeding more strategically, we focused our efforts on lines that served more.. reasonable samples, and perhaps, maybe, didn't remember to always take a ticket from you.

After 2 hours of sampling, here's what I've learned about Belgian beers:
  1. "wild" yeast makes beer taste disgusting.
  2. Garlic is pretty good in beer.
  3. "Gale" is a savory herb that is also very good in beer.
  4. unless the beer has garlic or gale in it, all I ever taste in a Belgian beer is the yeast
  5.  After all that sampling of Belgian beers, I went over to the craft beer section and purchased an American IPA 6 pack to bring home.
All in all this was an awesome event- exceptionally well run, with absolutely no issues (an amazing feat given the volume of alcohol consumed), and very educational.

At the end of the day, I learned that without a shadow of a doubt, I just don't like Belgian style beers. I tried in good faith to find one that I could review and recommend, I really did, and while some of them were ok, I can't say that there was even one that really made me want to buy it.  But that's my personal preference. So you probably won't see any Belgian brews in this space in the future. But don't let it stop you from partaking in a Belgian Ale. And if you find a really great, let me know. Maybe that's the one that will convert me. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Harpoon Brewery Celebrates 25 Years- "Rich and Dan's Rye IPA"

I've spent many a happy hour drinking at the Harpoon Brewery.

I love the beers. I love the brewery staff. I run in the annual Harpoon 5 Miler every year. I attend every 100 Barrel release tasting that I can possibly attend (always with my buddy Daupha. Always).

One of my first dates with the woman who would eventually become my wife began when she came to visit me one afternoon while I was working at Harpoon Summerstock back in 2001. (she asked if she could buy me dinner after I got off work. How could I say no? Fast forward 10 years, and now we take our daughter to the 5 Miler and watch her dance to the music at the after race party.)

It's truly a special place for me.

So naturally, when I saw that they had brewed a special beer in celebration of their 25th Anniversary, it was a "must buy". And, as it was an IPA, it fits perfectly with my August Theme- "drink all the IPA I can".

Rich and Dan's Rye IPA
Harpoon Brewery(ok, it's technically the Massachusetts Bay Brewing Company, but who knows them by that name?)
Boston, MA
6.9% ABV

This beer pours a lovely deep orange/gold color, clear, with a thin, wispy white head.

Smell is obvious- HOPS. The famous, signature Harpoon hop aroma that greats you every time you open a classic Harpoon IPA is also present here. Its exactly what I want when I buy a Harpoon IPA. Its very floral, but unlike the classic Harpoon IPA, this has hints of a warm spice in the nose.

Mouthfeel is creamy, medium bodied, with a lot of fizz on the tongue. I'm thinking its probably rye spice settling into my palette.

Taste is bitter citrus hoppy, and spicy, with a sturdy malt back. Finish tastes more rye spice than malt or bitter.

According to their web site, they brewed with Centennial, Willamette, and Chinook hops. Dry hopped with Falconer’s Flight. Malted grains were-Pale, Maris Otter, Rye, Caramel 60, Flaked Rye, Vienna.

I loved this beer. It presents with that awesome Harpoon IPA hoppy aroma, but the rye keeps it in check and neutralizes some of the hop kick one might expect in the taste department.  Its a great, great take on Harpoons best beer. I give it 3.5+ out of 5.

Love beer. Love Life. Harpoon!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Brew Free! Or DIE IPA- 21st Amendment Brewery

In keeping with my newly designated August theme of "drinking all the IPAs I can", I once again turn to 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco.

I first discovered these guys back in the early days of this blog, when I stumbled upon their wonderful dark Belgian Ale "Monks Blood".

These guys brew serious beers, they un-apologetically put them in cans (better for the beer, and the environment, according to their packaging), and put interesting, in your face copy and images on the cans ("monks blood"?)

Brew Free! Or DIE IPA
21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA
7% ABV, 70 IBUs

The can modestly proclaims this: "Brew Free! OR die IPA. IPA with a solid malt backbone & hoppy flavors"

That's all. Just "brew free". or DIE.

Then there's the cartoon caricature of Mt Rushmore, with Lincoln breaking free, fist raised defiantly, as if he's on his way to punch you in the face you if you don't "Brew Free"!

This beer pours a clear Orange/Gold color, with an inch or so of off white, wispy head. There a lot of bubbles in the glass.

Smell is piney hops with a subtle, warm malt undertone and hint of warm spice. Its very nice.

Mouthfeel is light, as you would expect, with a lot of bubbles on the tongue. There is also a very mild alcoholy warmth on the tongue, but its very, very subtle.

Taste is suprisingly malty (yes, yes, I know the can said it said it had a "strong malt back bone", but I expected it to be secondary taste, following the hops). There's a nice subtle spice in the malt that gives it some warmth, then a citrus bitter hop follow through and finish that balances it all out nicely. 

Malts used in the brewing were two row pale & imported Munich, and the hops were warrior, columbus, cascade, amarillo, ahtanum, & simcoe. (See all those hops? I am NOT crazy for expecting more hop flavor)

Overall this is nicely balanced, with a slight malt advantage in taste. I like it- a lot- but I was really hoping for more hops from a brew that calls itself  "brew free! or DIE IPA". I found it very drinkable and enjoyable.

I give this a solid 3.5 on a 1-5 scale.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy International IPA Day!

It's August 4th- Happy International IPA day! (ok, by the time anyone reads this, it will probably be the day after)

I have no idea who created this day, but I'd like to shake their hand.

Not that I need another reason to drink an IPA mind you. But, it is August, the weather is cooling (oddly), and we're staring down the barrel of Oktoberfest and the fall beer season, which, to me, means drink all the IPA you can NOW- while it's still summer!

I posted earlier this week about my mishap at the packie- my error in purchasing an Imperial Pale Ale rather than my coveted India Pale Ale. Yeah, I'm an idiot. Let this be a lesson to you all- read the dang label!

But luckily, I did make another accurate purchase that day, an actual IPA! Please welcome to the blog....

Peak Organic Brewing Company, Portland, ME
8.2% ABV

The label on this beer caught my eye, mostly because it has that little half green, half white "USDA Organic" seal. The idea of drinking good beer and being environmentally responsible is very appealing (I've been reading a lot of Michael Polan books lately, its having an affect, I can't lie).

The label says this about the beer- 
"Hop Noir is a delectable Black IPA, dripping with piney, aromatic Centennial hops. The malt base is dark and rich, anchored by organic black malt. This provides a strong foundation for the extravagant kettle hopping and dry-hopping that this beer experiences. Enjoy with a night-light."

Hmm..a black IPA? 

Holy Dark! This beer pours BLACK. I caught hints of dark, dark cherry red when I held it up to intense light. Head was thick and tight and brown. It looked stout thick during the pour.

Smell is malt- dark roasted malted, with an intense sweetness that I couldn't quite identify- Fruit? Candy? Chocolate? I'm not 100% sure, but there is something super sweet hidden in the nose. Overall it was very...earthy, with hints of hops on the back.

Mouthfeel is much lighter than expected- This beer may pour like a stout, but it feels like a porter. Much more carbonation that is indicated in the pour. Slightly creamy on the palate.

Taste is very... GOOD. I taste dark roasted coffee, almost burnt, with a sweetness I still can't articulate (maybe a dunks dark roast with extra extra?). Its very malty, with a hop flower bitter finish.

This beer keeps you guessing. It pours like a stout, feels like a porter, yet finishes like an IPA. What the hell is this?

Overall, it's a very good beer. I'd classify it in the category with the current IPA/porter combos that seem to be the hot trend in craft beer. Call it a "black IPA" or an East India Porter". I give this beer a solid 4. Black IPA = good drinking!