Wednesday, May 30, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Rayon Vert Belgian Pale Ale | Green Flash Brewing | San Diego, CA

So, I've been on an incredible streak of buying and consuming fine-tasting compounds and concentrates lately, and I think it all began when I raffled off three crisp American dollars in exchange for a single Green Flash Double Stout bottle that kicked off my week of toasting a soggy Mother Nature with my handsome palate. 

As I mentioned in that entry, Green Flash was the beer architect whose buildings I never gazed upon because of suspect advice that their blueprints were miscalculated.  It practically took a constitutional amendment to bypass that stigma, and now I realize how wrong I was to dismiss them.  

As any beer nerd will tell you, adding a new brewery to his recurrent rotation is a game changer.  Suddenly, you have a new exit strategy when the impenetrable wall of six packs at the Mega Outlet becomes too aggressive.  Green Flash has become that new beacon, The Hatch, if you will allow the pun.

Recently, my part-time buddy Justin at King Liquor -- and I say "part-time" because he's my barley, grain, and hops dealer (and, really, who can be friends with their dealer?) -- informed me that he had somehow over-ordered Green Flash's Rayon Vert, and he was pretty anxious to move the stuff.  Ideal for your purposes. Slow release. Bring you down gradual. Custom fucking designed for your needs.

So, I'm like: Mickey Forrester?!  Russian Sailors?!  I'll take what you've got.

Its that SMH moment, followed by a wry grin, when you know you've just experienced something simple, understated, and elegantly gorgeous.  Its like the total opposite, yet equal, emotion of listening to PULP's Disco 2000 along with 60,000 other people at Glastonbury.  This was Jarvis Cocker humping my tongue with crystalline wild yeasts and segueing right into the fresh melon and strawberries of Common People.  You sons-of-bitches.  You know this is too much to contain, so the head-shaking and small grins become an evolved, toothy smile and another interrogating bottle-glance.  I'm inspecting this vessel's writing in search of a reason why this is just so fucking spectacular.

Continuously Evolving, it says.  But, then, I'm not so sure what their frame of reference is.  Rayon Vert is evolving right here in my gizzard.  This is over-ripened and muddled vine plant, balanced beautifully by subdued hops and subtle citrus.  This is farmhouse yeast strains and the Number 3 setting of your Cuisinart toaster.  The end result is joy.

But, I'm also suspecting that Continuously Evolving really means, like, right now, in my fridge.  In your fridge.  In Justin's therapeutic coolers.  Rayon Vert is an everlasting gobstopper of flavors and it is anyone's guess as to the perfect time to pop this.  Maybe every time is perfect?   I'd like that lessened pressure.

Sensationalism aside, there is nothing similar on the market. 

The Green Flash family states that Rayon Vert was 'sparked by a self-imposed challenge to produce a Belgian style abbey to unmistakably express the spirit of Green Flash if the brewery were producing just one beer and operating under the conditions of Pre-WWII Belgium.' -- a challenge that took the brewery over four years to accomplish.  With a philosophy like that, who would deny them expansionism into his heart and Zeitgeist of the liquor depot like it was the Champs-Élysées?

The minds at Green Flash also say that Rayon Vert will age like champagne.  Are you getting the connection here?  Surrender to greatness.  Oui?

ABV: 7.o%
Acquired: King's

Friday, May 25, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Jittery Monk Coffee Dubbel | Thirsty Planet Brewing | Austin, TX

Often, Texas microbrewing can tend to go a bit like this:  Hello, we are a new brewery in your area and here are four beers that we know you already like ...

And then we thirstily smash all of it into our faces because, hey, We're fuckin' Texas, right?  And damn right we're gonna get down with our locals like Andy Cohen on Pet Shop Boys night. 

Of course, this is a perfectly acceptable approach, especially for the start-ups banking on accessing a quick and critical following.  I'm not being raw, just observant; this is something that seems to occur every 3-6 months in this state.  I do applaud any and every variety, all of the pleasing options we are offered, and the oft-rotating alternatives to the familiar tap handles. 

In the case of microbrews, quantity IS quality -- a rare exception to the rule.  The more we have around, the better off we are because of it.

But what makes these small breweries the most interesting -- at least to me -- is not that they can provide us with what they know we already like, but what they can predict will enrapture an entire beer community.  The only way to effectively do this is to be integrated within the community, to harmonize with your fans, and provide context to your product. 

This is exactly the reason why the macro-sized quarter-wits over at InBev et al so often miss with their secondary audience, giving us things like Bud Platinum(!), expecting us to lose our fuckin' minds, and sending a rep to Spec's to inform us that "YOU CAN TOTALLY TASTE THE ALCOHOL IN THERE, BROS!".  Its enough to make you want to kick a small child.

But where does that connection between brewer and consumer hit exactly the right chord?  When something as stunningly creative as Thirsty Planet's Jittery Monk Coffee Dubbel arrives at your esophageal disposal. Now this is being in-tune with your congregation.  This is a whole fucking sermon.

I was fortunate enough to get a pre-screening of Jittery Monk at the Alamo Drafthouse Off-Centered Rolling Roadshow last month, where an impressive collection of local brewers assembled to demonstrate a twist on one of their traditional beers.  For example, (512) Brewing brewed a cherry and coconut infusion into their Pecan Porter and Live Oak made their Big Bark into a rauchbier, which was all very nice and tasty.

But Thirsty Planet went tits-out, and fashioned an entirely new beverage -- and by that I mean, like, they pretty much invented a whole new category* of beer: The Belgian Coffee Abbey. 

Its one of those things that just seems all-too-obvious to have not been trademarked earlier, like, I don't know, in the five centuries since coffee, abbey ales, and Trappists monks have co-existed.  Whats more is, I cannot fathom something more idyllic than sipping a pint inside a small, war-worn cafe in Chimay while the smell of fresh drip wafts from the gallery.  Belgians are the romantics of beer, and Thirsty Planet was about to get humpy.

While Jittery Monk emphasizes its coffee notes, the brilliance is in the use of a cold-pressed coffee supplied by local roasters Kohana Coffee.  In doing so, the coffee is never introduced to the heat element that tends to drain the flavor of the bean itself.  Instead, the cold-press makes the product far less acrid and presents itself as a naturally sweetened and very noticeably smoother liquid.   

One thing that I've often complained about in coffee beers is the pervasive chipotle-tasting acidic flavor that renders into the beer.  I can often overlook it, but it makes the beer far less enjoyable -- like when, in a rush, you have to settle for gas-station coffee instead of the neighborhood roaster. 

With Jittery Monk, that charred bitterness never presents itself, and instead, you are left with a very well-bodied coffee beer that finishes on the palate with a sweet cream and expertly placed hint of smoke, spice, fresh baked bread, malt, and Belgian chocolate.  Its a complex beer without being fussy.  Its clever without being exaggerated.  And I think its currently the best beer in Austin.

ABV: 8.o%
Acquired: Drink.Well

*(at least to my knowledge)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Boxer's Revenge Barrel Aged Wild Ale | Jester King Brewing | Austin, TX

Should I just go ahead and make this Wild Ale Week, because, hell, everyone loves a good theme to rally around.

I think I would if I could scrounge up a collection of more than just-a-few that are available in The Great State.  There is a depressing dearth of suitable sours in Texas and remarkably, Jester King makes the only three brewed within its borders (at least going by my very scientific tool of measurement: my damaged memory).  By comparison, California has eleventy billion.

And even though that's not true, we have such a long way to go as a beer state to, not only catch up to current brewing trends, but to compete with the quality of product. 

Fortunately for we fans of the style, Jester King has the competency of a brewhouse like New Belgium or Terrapin, despite its relative infancy.  I talked a bit about their first sour release in an earlier entry, and I liked it very much.  What I don't like is the irregularity in which it appears in my fridge or cellar.  They just simply don't make enough of the fuckin' stuff in order to make me an endeared fan of their sours.  If I can't drink it, and I can't propose to you to walk to your nearest pub to drown yourself in it, then by what value can it be measured?

Jester King beer-drinking experiences are like personal relics;  a library of archived memories that have a very short shelf-life, as do 99% of craft beers out there.  Even the truly great, rare, and mostly-unavailable beers are propagated mainly by memories of the experience, and not really the beer itself.  Okay, sure, I can remember the details and flavor minutia of great beers, like Pliny the Elder, Hopslam, and The Abyss -- but the lingual artifacts of their flavor profiles are documented more similarly to art, communicating cohesively with all five senses, and seeking refuge in a more special part of the brain.

Most beers, by the basic science of natural impulses cannot take you to that place, therefore, much of the "love" we might experience for a particular beer is based on the company we share, our immediate environments, our moods, and other ancillary effects we may be encountering at the moment of consumption.  Jester King is my best example of this, and the reason being, is that their sour beers are both highly coveted and largely unavailable.  Two dangerous ingredients for human brains to cook with.

Eye cray and a face only Mathew Broderick could love.
Boxer's Rebellion is wonderful, no doubt.  Its farmhouse wheat ale base is aged in both whiskey AND wine barrels, reducing the amount of fucks-given to the requisite zero when making a wild ale.  Jester King's got that down.  The beer dances The Charleston a with tart, tropical fruit nose, then composes itself with a waltz of yeast funk across the nape of your hard and soft palates, before finishing up curtly with a hobo's kiss of booze and chewed hay.  Its a great beer, and I really enjoyed its ambition.

But is Boxer's Revenge a love that can be sustained? Nurtured?  Consummated? Probably not.  Its limited access makes this beer a fling, and not a marriage -- and that's something difficult for a nerd to accept.

ABV: 9.4%
Acquired: Sunrise

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Tart Lychee Wild Ale | New Belgium Brewing | Ft Collins, CO

I believe that there is no spectrum to the category of Wild Ales.  Either you knock one out of the park like a boss, or your product is a complete Albert Pujols sub-.200, count to potato, abomination.

Okay, that's speculative, because I tend to choose my sours carefully, and there have only been a couple of underachievers.  But if brewers are considering tainting their perfectly drinkable beer with brett and bacterias, they had also better make good on the promise that their product is fit for recreational enjoyment.  Especially considering the stylish and inspired price-points of these Frankenbeers. 

That being said, New Belgium is the Prince Fielder of breweries; swinging for the fences in a do-or-do-not,-there-is-no-try mentality of beer breeding.  And, incidentally,  they designed my nearly-favorite sour ever, ever -- so they got that going for them, important as my personal opinions are on their financial stability. 

Typically, I prefer my sours to begin with a meatier base, like a brown ale -- or even an imperial stout if you have watermelons in place of testicles.  But most sours I've dabbled in begin with a simple wheat ale and then get layered from there, like a vodka cocktail.  Tart Lychee takes this approach.

Around the spring of 2007, me and my buddy Graham discovered the awesomeness of lychee, using it to infuse spirits, chasing the trend all around a hastily updated Phoenix bar scene. We couldn't get enough of it in our highballs, infused and neat in rocks glasses, or poured as a simple syrup over interesting boozes. As Mark Renton said, we would have injected it if only they'd made it illegal.  It essentially became the fruit of our most laborious sixth months of kickassery; two scenesters enjoying a reckless life of strip-mall discos and eastern tree harvest in the Valley of the Sun.

As does anything, the trend shriveled to ashes, and we were back to drinking malbecs and scotches and whatever prudent item we could rouse up at a happy hour in the last light of the aughts.  I hadn't even thought about lychee again until a few week ago when I saw a bottle staring back at me on the rack: T-A-R-T  L-Y-C-H-E-E.  As a infinitely nostalgic sap, my interest in such a product was piqued.

The bottle demonstrated above was shared between me and my beer accomplice, Mike, at a point in the night that I would consider too-late to start breaking open specialty brews.  Because so, I wasn't at all impressed with Tart Lychee, thinking that New Belgian had whiffed on plucking at the long tendons of my memory.  I was kind-of bummed -- as much as you can appropriately be regarding average beer, which was to say, not very bummed -- but I did consider never revisiting it again.

But, as opportunity often does: it invites you to happy hour.  And happy hour last week meant American Craft Beer Week, and incidentally, New Belgium glass night at The Flying Saucer.  Aight.  And because The Saucer's beer menu is frustratingly disorganized and and their servers completely OMGWTFLOLZ I'm not sure what an Alt is, I settled on the Tart Lychee, ceding to the usual ordering pressure from the Saucer server when she's standing there all scabbed up and skirted.  Plus, asking too many questions of the servers at The Saucer makes you seem like an asshole somehow.

But, what was brought to me in a rather gorgeous tulip was on another level of delightfulness;  wooorlds apart from the vessel-packaged-version of this beer.  This draught version was crisp and smart and nuanced.  It tasted like everything Strawberry Abita hoped to grow up to be.  I loved it so much I thought about ordering another one immediately -- which, if you've been drinking with a beer nerd in a venue with a superflous beer menu, is pretty much as unlikely as catching two homerun balls in consecutive at-bats.

I was very impressed with this wild ale.  However, the variable from Night One to Night Two just had to be the fact that I was drinking this right out of the spout, in the sunshine, and in a full 12 oz open-mouthed-kiss-of-a-glass.  Therefore, any gratuitous giddiness on display here comes from those few, but very important, details.

ABV: 7.5%
Acquired: Spec's/Flying Saucer

Friday, May 18, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Imperial Stout | Founder's Brewing | Grand Rapids, MI

Part V of V in the series: [An Avenue]'s Stout Week. Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV.

Sadly, Stout Week has come to a cloudless, warm, and sunny end now that our week of Spring has limped off again like a legion of worn Irish peat extractors after their 6PM last call .

But this did not happen without a full-scale and delirious assault on a supremely first-rate Imperial Stout escorted by a good portion of The Walkmen's musical catalog while in the garden the other night -- and few things go together better than fat beers and guitar-driven post-punk revival.

If you've ever allowed yourself to dream what it would have been like to be Augustus Gloop, hand-scooping delicious river-chocolate into your gob at a pace that will satisfy you before you are reprimanded by Oompa-Loompas, then Founder's Imperial Stout is your golden ticket.

From the initial pour, you are exposed to the beautiful properties of a dark-chocolate fountain steeping into your tulip as if plumbed from Wonka's factory itself -- and, heavens no, not any of that weak arsed faculty-end-of-year-party bullshit fountain.  I'm talking Jean-Philippe Patisserie at The Bellagio type-of chocolate fountain.  And the best part: tongue fondue.  I was ready to absolutely glaze myself in this stuff.

Without any ancillary suggestions needed, the beer tasted just like a pull from Francois Payard's imagination.  That was no false advertising.  What took an hour to pour, took milliseconds to adore.  In a blog that applauds and aggrandizes imperial stouts like tourists at the Italian opera, this could possibly be the one by which all the others are measured.  Its a nasty force, this one -- the brutal, but smooth strength of an Earl Campbell.  The Pearl of Beers.  That's what it should be called.  An absolute specimen.

I very much look forward to the other three in my four-pack, but this one will be even more difficult than usual to share with grovelers.  I can feel the shadows of my wife creepin' and my usual insistence that my beer cellar is not her HEB.  I need a doorman.

ABV: 10.5%
Acquired: Jack's Market

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

[A Beer a Day] The Poet Oatmeal Stout | New Holland Brewing | Holland, MI

Part IV of V in the series: [An Avenue]'s Stout Week. Part IPart IIPart III.

The first stout I ever loved -- maybe the first beer I ever loved -- was Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout, responsibly passed down from my father to me at a bar & grill in Dallas, TX during the summer of 1994 while on vacation during the USA-hosted World Cup tournament.  Later that weekend, we watched perhaps one of the most epic games in international footy history before dropping me off in Austin to spend the rest of my sophomore summer meddling around Austin, attending Dallas Cowboys training camp, lying to doormen on 6th Street about my age (before it was Dirty 6th and a fake ID was when you erroneously thought a random guy sitting at the bar with a 90s mullet was your buddy sitting at the bar with a 90s mullet), and other general malaise.  It was one of the best summers that could ever align into the life-trajectory of a 15-year old -- and it all started with that Sam Smith.

Eighteen years, and four World Cup cycles later, I still have to say that my favorite beer-style falls in the stouts category, and even more specifically in the subgenre of oatmeal stouts.  And because of the American craft movement, we as a populace no longer have to look across the pond for a proper rendition.  In fact, two of my personal favorite oatmeal stouts are brewed right in the craw of what my household considers our homefields: Austin Beerworks' Sputnik and New Holland's (MI) The Poet.

I'll say this about Michigan -- it is gorgeous in two ways: The Beer and The Landscape. 

Sure, the government might be a little demented, and well, the people are just a bit isolated, is all -- but overall, its really a great place that has most of its shit together -- and after all, look at our dipshit of a Governor and, sure, we have aggies too.  And, anyway, did you read that Detroit may be the next Austin?

But, before I digress into a completely different blog, I'll say again that it's the beer and the landscape that sets Michigan apart from the rest of the flyovers -- Ohio, Indiana, and the insufferably Longcat-of-a-state, Illinois.  It's a huge pain in the arse to float through these middling states like a plastic bag in a pool just to transport all the good shit from Michigan to Texas.

But it must not be undervalued, the worth of this excursion.  Holland is one of the most beautiful parts of Lake Michigan -- at least I'm guessing it is, since I haven't seen more than 2% of it.  I am, however, willing to bet that it doesn't get much nicer than the gorgeous Americana-style setting that Western Michigan provides.

And within this burg reside some of my crafty heroes: New Holland Brewing.  I've talked before about one of the staples of my winter diet being New Holland's Dragon's Milk, and The Poet is my off-peak, summer stout when Melissa and I make headways to Northern Michigan.

And remember the landscape I was referring to?

Traverse City, like The D, but less stabby.
Now this is quite the idyllic setting in which to drink a nice, summer stout -- and therefore, The Poet continues the tradition for me where Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout left off many, many summers ago.

The Poet is a spectacular blend of cereals, coffees, and chocolates -- a true breakfast stout in the same vein as their buddies and follow brew geniuses down at Founder's in Grand Rapids.  I think though, that I favor The Poet just a bit more due to its medium body and smoother, but not-oily, overall composition.  Its a sweet and creamy treat that goes charmingly with a coastline and 76° weather that is prevalent in June.

Stouts are like the beautiful game -- invoking a tribal allegiance to a slow, but progressively developing, and ultimately, very rewarding climax.  If the goal is an unexpected greatness in marvel and skill, then The Poet stands as this styles Romario.

ABV: 5.2%
Acquired: Jack's Market

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Imperial Russian Stout 2012 | Stone Brewing | Escondido, CA

Part III of V in the series: [An Avenue]'s Stout Week. Part I. Part II.

Its been a week of total mayhem thanks to the rigors of Imperial Stouts in sub-80s drippy weather.  This was totally unexpected, like when you search eBay for a summer book and you get distracted by old Kinks albums.  This was mother nature getting off-track, and rewarding me with something I can fucking get down to.

On this particular day, I had gone to the market to find myself the biennial Imperial Russian Stout -- or IRS -- offering from Stone Brewing (Stone does a variant-style IRS on odd-numbered years, and their classic IRS on even years.) and was able to find one with minimal skimming.  This was a direct "I'm Feelin Lucky" search hit, which I'm very keen on at the booze store, because it prevents me from eye-boning the other interesting bottles on the shelves and keeps my inventory at an economical level.

Also, lately, Melissa has been on a strange wine streak, which meant that -- as much as I love sharing with her --  I could chew this one down by myself without the worry of shorting my buzz.  This really would be all I needed to accidentally swallow the corn holders at dinnertime. 

Let me tell you what is emphatically awesome about this beer straight away: It pours like 24 ounces of furnace oil into my crankshaft.  This is some high-octane salve that would be pleased to unfuck anyone's day -- and though I wasn't in my gruff-place at all -- I could tell that this is what Homer refers to as the cause of- and solution to- all of life's problems

Wow, this was a remarkable example of how a single fuck will not be given by Stone Brewing.

Take the ideas of Pintrest and Girl Scout Cookie Shots that you would undoubtedly see when your minding your own fucking business at a bar, and then a bachelorette party shows up; marry those two together, and you have the exact opposite of what Stone IRS represents.  Good thing Melissa was drinking Pinot, or she might have grown a penis. 

Stone IRS tastes like all of the burnt coffee goodness you would get from the airport outlet of Peet's, where the company is less likely to send their barista artists of Vine Street, and more so their former bathroom attendants looking to move up the ladder.  Combine the spicy muddle of anise and chocolate, with an enormous FUPA-punch of alcohol, and you're somewhere in the neighborhood of IRS.  Also, just imagine that fragrance: coffee, chocolate, hidden hops, and roasted barley.  Its an olfactory Feng Shui.

Yep.  This is a fantastically mucky fucker, and you will have done yourself a solid to have tried it.  I will be seeking out the remnants of these when I am able to scrounge together a surplus of beer change and have a day to set aside for suggestive banter with Melissa.  Bet she can't wait.

ABV: 10.5%
Acquired: Spec's

Monday, May 14, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Vampire Slayer Imperial American Stout | Clown Shoes Brewing | Ipswich, MA

Part II of V in the series: [An Avenue]'s Stout Week. Part I.

I have an incredible aversion to gimmicky breweries like Clown Shoes, but stouts were at the forefront of my mind last week due to the final appeals of Spring and all of its rainy greatness.  I snagged three from the depot and uncellared two others to relish the meaty backstrap of what will be a murderous summer.

But, as I was saying, I get ornery about a brewery who's primary appeal is their banal packaging, making you aware that the visual intrigue is as good as its gonna get.  The same DIY'ers who focus more on the marketing and Christmas wrapping than the final product.  That is Clown Shoes Brewing.

Here is why I changed my mind about throwing good American loot at a product I was predetermined to loathe (apart from the aforementioned Stout boner of May '12):  1) I like a good comeback story.  I mean, The Detroit Lions are like America's team by now, and to be honest, Clown Shoes went 0 an 16 last year; 2) Its an anniversary brew.  This means that they put a little extra time into this one, as opposed to their typical offenses against good taste, Tramp Stamp Belgian IPA, Muffin Top Tripel IPA, and Clementine Witbier; 3) It was recc'd by my BIL Ken, who is, in his own domestic and socially acceptable way, also a stout addict.

Okay, there was a 4th reason: It was $6.99, which is absurdly inexpensive for an imperial stout weighing in at a chunky 10% ABV.  Not too much to lose here except a day stouting in glorious, forgiving rain.

As you can see, Vampire Slayer is as carbonated as a fresh bottle of Jolt Cola, and probably twice as sugary.  On my first sip, I had a mouthful of chocolaty foam, that reminded my of a Hershey's Air Delight Bar -- not that I've ever experienced one of those freaky things, but its just what it reminded me of.  Not a bad opening number, but I was pretty anxious after waiting through three renditions of New Order's Temptation in order for the fizz to recede.

Thick.  Very viscous, like stadium hot chocolate made from chemically arranged goods.  I liked it.  Not bad.  It was very roasty and had the warm essence of Bailey's in your morning coffee.  I like rule-breaking like that, so its was cool to experience that in a prefabricated recipe.

Not bad was pretty much the common theme.  It was certainly the best value I'd had in many, many months and I would mos def pick another up when the economics of beer collecting catches up with me, as it tends to do after an early-season push of rarities, one-offs, and term releases.

Not bad.  Not bad at all.  I will inevitably slip one as a salutations to the great Abraham Lincoln, when the time approaches.

ABV: 10.o%
Acquired: Spec's

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Double Stout | Green Flash Brewing | San Diego, CA

Part I of V in the series: [An Avenue]'s Stout Week

One of the prominent trends-of-the-second in the brew world is the practice of collaboration between similarly progressive entities in the name of producing a better beer-drinking experience.  This week, the award for mastery goes to the alliance between St. Augustine, the patron saint of brewers, and St. Medardus, the patron saint of good weather.  And because of their unlikely affair, I have been able to sneak in an extra week of heavy stouts in the garden.

Also, it should be noted that good May-ish Austin weather means cool, rainy spells that give the general suggestion of an actual transition between the mildness of winter and the wretchedness summer.  This, apparently, is that one week.

As a declaration of good fortune, I ambled over to one of my favorite depots for a mixed-pack of the good shit -- which, by the way, should be the next prominent beer trend, particularly in Texas if we want to become a true beer state like Michigan, California, or Oregon.  (And as a further aside, did you know that Hancock HEB will let you mix-n-match from their full-stock coolers itself?  Yep.  Just did it the other day).

But anyway, so I'm cruising the singles aisle for my BILF of choice, and upon seeing one, I recollected the several good experiences I'd had with Green Flash Brewing lately, namely their Palate Wrecker DIPA and the Rayon Vert Belgian Pale.  I'd be deceitful if I didn't admit that this was a brewery that, overall, I've largely ignored throughout the years, primarily due to the seemingly easier decision of grabbing a quick stash from the other various well-reputed Southern Cal breweries, but I thought Green Flash had earned itself a spot in my starting-six.  So I gave Double (imperial) Stout the call-up.

Green Flash's Double Stout was quite simply a display of sorcery.  Witchcraft.  Black magic.  Holy balls.  Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, kiss my ass. Kiss his ass. Kiss your ass. Happy Hanukkah.

This is the kind of game changer that could not have been prospected any harder for on this perfectly stormy day.  Melissa was so jealous that she decided to make it a Zin night for herself, while I taunted her with my equally splendid DAAN tulip (which I believe is a band of Belgian hooligans) full of coffee, chocolate, and little bits of the Russian royal family.

This will undoubtedly be on my to-do list come dead winter, or the freakish monsoon that is inevitable now that we live in an arid desert.

ABV: 8.8%
Acquired: King Liquor

Monday, May 7, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Schwarzbier | Live Oak Brewing | Austin, TX

Paint it black.
Warning: I've been listening to Beach House all morning, and I'm pretty much in the same mood that British people get into when they talk about their house cats -- which is to say, equal parts amorous, entranced,  and anthropomorphistic. Such moments lead to reviews that get a bit daft whilst I'm listening to inspiring soon-to-be-summer tunes, and I tend to focus less on the brew itself than I do the feeling of drinking the brew.

But that's okay in this instance because Live Oak's Schwarzbier is as much about the fantastic elements of a black lager as it is the environs in which one can sit and imbibe.

It appears that Live Oak is as forward with the notion of enjoying dark-hued beers in the bright of summertime as much as I am (and I see other brewers trending towards the same belief).  Its very -- quite very, the more I think about it -- analogous to the idea that morose, shoegazing indiecore like Beach House could invoke the June solstice much like a dark beer that is heavily malt roasted and conditioned in chocolaty coffee greatness. 

In fact, Live Oak Schwarz is a wonderful, smokey respite from the floral, citrusy, piney luminance of PAs, IPAs, and IIPAs that tend to emulsify during the summer's monotonous butchery of the earth's weather patterns.  The smooooth amber resin of Live Oak shwarz has been a fine way to erode the unfiltered yeasts and isoamyl acetate esters of traditional summer brews.

Like so many of Central Texas' seasoned and budding brew houses, Live Oak invokes a great deal of inspiration for its line-up from the area's historic German, Czech, and Mexican heritage -- an amalgamation of cultures that makes for an impressive beer lineage.  Therefore, there are several local brewers who dunk their schnitzel into the mustard of dark lagers -- and we are all better for it. 

Friends of the blog, Austin Beerworks and Hops & Grain both do a german-style dark lager, and veterans of the US craft scene Spoetzl (Shiner) have been doing one since 2006.  I love all of those black beers in their own intrepid ways, they are all wonderful and take a tidy portion of my money --  but in my opinion, Live Oak Shwarzbier has the jump on a smoothness that goes to infinity, and for that, they earn the chevron for achievement in this locally contested beer niche.

I thought that Live Oak had made a dead crow stand on a fence with their Primus Weizenbock, but in a side-by-side comparison of duty, their Schwarz may be my favorite thing they've ever done. 

Now, this particular bottle was a favor from a friend, and I want more of it for home consumption -- very, very much more -- so stop dicking around and start packaging your beers, bitte.

ABV: 4.8%
Acquired: Randomly

Thursday, May 3, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Hombre Sunday Funday @ Hops & Grain (ft. Various Artists)

This is exactly the reason why they put a camera on my phone: to capture moments of bewilderment when my brain simply cannot process the amount of rapscallionery being witnessed within the moment -- and therefore, must be captured for posterity and later reflection.

The thing is this: these bottle share days are unpredictable in most aspects but the endgame, and that is, lots of two-armed hugging, blueskying about something epically beer related, an inevitable Zepplin or Phish longplay from Alpine Valley, and your head suddenly swimming in 4oz pours of depressants.  Delicious, rare, 10% depressants.

One is likely to wonder how in the entire fuck a buzz was so readily achieved when all that was provided were several dozens of small pours, but then you forget about all that wondering, and you're off singing String Cheese Incident lyrics that you didn't even know you knew.

This is the type of brewer influenced thought-lava that usually tends to melt my brain every time the opportunity arises to get drunk in their company

Bottle Share Sunday Fundays are like de facto bro-cations, and in its current, traditional, and semi-regular form, it is a work of fucking art; like Judge St. Bernard Wins on a Bluff fresco'ed on The Pieta.  Is that type of aesthetic badassery called something?  If not, it should be called a Bottle Share.  That's what I'm calling it, anyway.

I usually get invited to these things as a bashful +1 to one of my good friends, Mike, half-proprietor of DrinkWell and fellow beer goon.  I say bashful because this: these are people's babies.  These are prizes that have been stuffed into extra socks at LAX, carried through eight, boring Midwest states with golf clubs and a family, purchased from a jerk-off in North Carolina who's making a sweet rake off of your hobby, and so on, so forth.  There's a modicum of respect that must be paid to people willing divvy to their hard-earned inheritance, however that may have come to be.  These are why these events are so great; a communal measurement of everyone's beer-cock, with everyone nodding in mutual approval at its impressiveness.

But in the end -- you very well know -- beer is intended to be fucking consumed, and the respect for the beer itself prevails over hording your fortune.

This share, in particular, was probably the most spectacular of any in which I've participated, and that fully rests on the company with which we drank.  While the beers are the stars of the show, the good folks that came together for this thing are like "the guys in the truck" that were perennially thanked on Monday nights by John Madden, and then later Al Michaels.  These are the people that make shit happen.

The good men of Hops & Grain opened their brewery to a host of local beer sages from Thirsty Planet, Austin Beerworks, Jester King, Black Star, Independence, and a smattering of other brewluminati from places like New Belgium, Barley Swine, and the aforementioned DrinkWell.  There was so much beer aptitude in the room, that it would be absolutely preposterous for me to review the stock, but instead, I wanted to show you what the Big League looks like.  I'm just an amateur, so I'll humbly take my seat at the back of the bus.

But, before I get out of the way in favor of some 1,000-word pics, I just wanted to say thank-you to everybody who opened up their cellars in the name of craft advocacy and in the name of choking each other in the face with extreme beers.

This was the 1PM casting call ... however, so many bottles are not pictured, because brewers are a late lot, and I got a bit forgetful about snapping one off every time someone dumped their booze into the community bath.

Part of the reason this shit got cray straight away was that there was this 3 liter bottle of Russian River Damnation that Jake from Thirsty Planet trolled the whole party with; aged a half-decade, or 5/7th in dog years, whatever you call that because I didn't do the lowest denominator thing.  Anyway, I would have been less shocked to see Allison Brie walk in with a case of Cantillon.
Damnation Golden Ale | Russian River Brewing | Santa Rosa, CA

21st Amendment Monk's Blood Belgian Dark Strong.  A wonderfully, earthy Belgian spiced Ale that absolutely invokes late Fall and worrying about who the fuck is gonna QB the 'Horns this season.
Monk's Blood Belgian Dark Ale | 21st Amendment Brewing | San Francisco, CA
Having a Brooklyn Black Ops at the gig would have made for a nice little fête.  But there were two.  Rival Black Ops.  Its was like the Osama BL raid in this fucking joint.  Black Ops down.
Black Ops Russian Imperial Stout | Brooklyn Brewing | Brooklyn, NY

A Bell's Hopslam/ Firestone Walker Double Jack / Russian River Pliny the Elder Horizonal.  Shit, why didn't you say so?  This DIPA challenge basically made far East 6th street the epicenter of the beer culture at 2PM.  This was the equivalent of a Jigga / Biggie / Easy E Hologram SXSW showcase rap battle.  We took off our shirts and started singing "I'd Rather Fuck You".
Hopslam DIPA | Bell's Brewing | Kalamazoo, MI
Double Jack DIPA | Firestone Walker Brewing | Paso Robles, CA
Pliny the Elder DIPA | Russian River Brewing | Santa Rosa, CA

The partially disputed winner.  But, wait an entire minute ... is that a lion about to old-timey-box a fucking bear?  Ok then, partially disputed WINNER!

I don't want to sound like a chick or a pussy, but chocolate, coffee, and oatmeal makes me very happy.  In my defense, I really only dabble in those things when they are in beer.
Breakfast Stout | Founder's Brewing | Grand Rapids, MI

Hand-crafted Vector from Jeff at Black Star.
Vector Irrational Chocolate Rye | Black Star Co-Op Brewing | Austin, TX

Will from Austin Beerworks brought this deft little beer from East End Brewing.  At least, that's what I thought going into it with its clever little recycled shopping bag façade and wax-dipped bonnet.  However, this wench carried a tough interior with a 9.3% Barleywine.  Ouchie.
Gratitude Barleywine | East End Brewing | Pittsburgh, PA

Some punter is always bringing a crazy-arsed Brew Dog to add to the shit show, and in this case, Paradox Isle of Arran stout was like the patriotic Scotsman who kept lifting his skirt and bulging his nuts in his hand like an alien brain.  But twice as hairy.
Paradox Isle of Arran Whisky Barrel Aged Stout | Brew Dog Brewing | Fraserburgh, Scotland

This particular bottle of Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter was brewed by Will of Austin Beerwork himself while at his prior gig in Maryland.  I do not have the words for this kind of awesomeness -- it was the nearest thing to Deschutes The Abyss that I'd had since December 2011, when I last drank ... Deschutes The Abyss.
Gonzo Imperial Porter | Flying Dog Brewing | Frederick, MD

Double Trouble often tends to get left out of the DIPA gangbang, but ZOMG, its a wonderful, wonderful beer that perpetuates the reputation of one of the greatest American breweries.
Double Trouble DIPA | Founder's Brewing | Grand Rapids, MI

Now this is a gem.  When discussing "rare beers", many times, we're discussing "rare to Texas", or "rare because this was a Fall 2011 release and good luck getting your hands on this until next October".  But this was basically a one-off of which I'm few very little, if any, remain.  I talk extensively about how much I love New Belgium's La Folie in a prior entry, and so this just took this motherfucking party to 11.
2009 La Folie Wood Aged Sour Ale | New Belgium Brewing | Fort Collins, CO

This little bugger I picked up last year in Holland, Michigan and in cleaning out some inventory, I discovered that I probably should have drank this by now.  Well, luckily I had something to do with it besides stare at its awesome label.  New Holland gets some backlash for being, like, the Rahr of Michigan, but when they hit a sweet note, I just tend to go a bit berserk about it.  This tasted much more like a Pale Ale rather than a true IPA, and the oak notes were fucking plucky and forward.  I absolutely loved it.
Oak Aged Mad Hatter IPA | New Holland Brewing | Holland, MI

Ok, shits getting out of hand, because we're pouring bottles left and right of the high end shit like a Pitbull commercial.  Some in the group actually begin to dismiss the thought of more Russian River to drink, as if unaware of the thirsty lot around Austin who would unhesitatingly get rapey and stabby with us for a single drop of this type of shit.  Did you see its refermented inside the bottle?  The Aristocrats!
Redemption Blonde Ale | Russian River Brewing | Santa Clara, CA

This sucker was born when I was 8 years old, and has been waiting 25 years to be uncorked like an elegant cognac.  In fact, the brewers bottle conditioned so that it would indeed age for an extended period of time like a bold brandy, and after sampling a small pour of it, it was incredible to taste the cultivation of two and a half decades of delicate reflection.  1987 Thomas Hardy's Ale

 Sure, there were several samplings that didn't make the larger montage of image captured booze, because after a while, you stop caring about the final vignette and just get to the fucking sport of it.  There's a 2008 bottle conditioned Left Hand Twin Sisters DIPA right there, a Green Flash Palate Wrecker IPA and Rayon Vert Belgian Pale Ale, a New Belgian Clutch Sour Dark, Hops & Grain Oak Aged Pale Dog, Ninkasi Maiden the Shade IPA, Jester King Beer Geek Rodeo Stout and Boxers Revenge Sour, 2011 (512) Double Pecan Porter, Panil Barriquee Sour, Russian River Sanctification Brett Fermented Golden and Temptation Chardonnay Barrel Aged Sour Blonde, ... and so on ...  you get the idea.

 All that A1 sauce leads to shit like this ...
... shooting Pale Dog cans off of the willingest of brewers moving Hondas.

The final 50-bottle salute.
(photo credit: Jake Maddux twitter @BeerEvangelist)