Stone Brewing now and in the future

So I endured the horrible traffic from Los Angeles to Escondido to hear Wil Wheaton talk and to try some sour beers. The outdoor bar is just perfect on a hot day. By 6pm it was nice and cool, and the drive was forgotten.

First up was Craftsman El Prieto. It was dark red and not to much head on it. You could smell sour from a mile away. The tartness doesn’t push you away though. When you drink it you get the sour first then fruit flavors mingle in later.

Second was Deschutes St. Lucy Belgian Artisan Ale. This was golden and fizzy. You could see the bubbles. This was more sour than the El Prieto with a bit more kick to it. This could have used some more fruit taste to balance.

Last was the Stone 13th Anniversary. Almost cola colored. Had a nice foamy head that dissipated quickly. Very floral hops. Bold and assertive IPA. But what do you expect from Stone? My favorite of the night.

Also, on August 22nd, the fine folks from Stone will be throwing a birthday bash and Invitational Beer Festival. $35.00 will get you in if you buy now. Those tickets will fly away quickly.

Anchor Steam – Our Barrel Aged

Wow! I had the pleasure of sampling this on Sunday and I was blown away. I am not a big fan of the whisky/bourbon aged beers. To my palate the vanilla and oak tastes tend to obliterate the actual beer. But this was something else. It is a mix of Old Foghorn, Liberty Ale and Anchor Bock. And it is almost like dessert. Roasty and whiskey notes dominate but not overpower and at around a skosh over 8% abv it is not going to drop you under the table.
anchoroba

Beers I had in Portland

Fort George – Vortex IPA – on a scale of 1-10, 6

Deschutes – Red Chair IPA – 6

Laurelwood – Hop Monkey – another 6

(Oregon IPA’s are getting less hoppy or my tastebuds expect more hops now)

Caldera – Pilsner – 7 1/2

Amnesia – Pale Ale – 5

Fort George – Spruce Ale – 6

Deschutes – Ocho Negro – 8

Deschutes – Armory XPA – 7

From Los Angeles to Portland

Los Angeles to Portland by car seems foolhardy. You can be at PDX in under 3 hours by plane and be going from brewery to restaurant to brewpub tasting all that you can.

The problem for me is that when I am up there, I see all kinds of bottles that I want to bring home and try at my leisure. And the TSA thinks it is strange to want to bring 5 or 10 bottles of great beer on a plane. So driving it is. And to make the most of it, I decided to stop along the way at the great beer places in California and Oregon.

My first stop was Paso Robles. The home of Firestone-Walker and lead brewer Matthew Brynildson. I chose a stool in the tasting room and ordered a glass of their Bavarian Wheat and Li’l Opal.

The Bavarian Wheat is a lovely hefe. Great clove and banana aroma. It pours a hazy golden with a spicy bite at the end. Very refreshing. It really cools a person down. The Li’l Opal is a saison. Very similar in color to the wheat. Has a sweet, malty aroma as well as a touch of the farmhouse funk. Just a touch sour with yeasty notes to it. Then I asked for a quick tour before I got back on the road. Veronica was kind enough to show me around and halfway through we ran into Matthew and he passed over a sample of their new Imperial IPA, Double Jack. It wa great to try something that hadn’t even been released yet! Just from that taste, I could tell that Double Jack will be a hit with the hop crowd. But I like that the malt was balancing all that bitterness.

I bid adios and headed for San Francisco, and after getting through some typical Bay Area traffic, found myself at 21st Amendment Brewery on a night that the Giants were playing just down the street. I had a glass of the Dahm Kolsch which was a lovely straw color. It is a very crisp beer. No soft edges on it. An uber-pilsner. Then I had the Rathskeller Alt. Not much aroma on it and unfortunately not much flavor either. Little malt sweetness. All of the beers were lower alcohol which is great.

I headed over to ThirstyBear to re-try one of the beers that started me on this journey to beer consultant. The Valencia Wheat. A California wit bier. Alas, it was not as good as the memory of ten years ago. Perhaps, I have had too many great beers since then and this one has faded to middle of the pack.

Then I found by serendipitous chance, the awesome City Beer Store that I will talk about in a separate post because I loved it so much.

The next day it was on to Chico, California. The home of Sierra Nevada. After a couple of wrong turns, I found the huge complex that houses their brewery operations, gift shop and restaurant. I had their new Kellerweis, served in the traditional glassware. It was a hazy orange/yellow color with an aroma more banana than clove with a little sourness at the end. Good Stuff. I also sampled their Southern Hemisphere IPA which was delicious. So delicious that I bought a bottle of it.

Then it was on to Ashland. After walking around the town, I headed for Standing Stone Brewing and ordered up their beer sampler. I received their Cream Ale, Hefeweizen, Amber, Rye, IPA, DIPA and the Oatmeal Stout. My favorites were the Cream ale which was golden and clear with fruit tastes to it and the Oatmeal stout which was a lovely, mild roasted coffee stout.

My last stop before Portland was Eugene, Oregon where I stopped at the McMenamin’s on High Street. I ordered up the Ruby Ale. My sister-in-law’s favorite beer and thanked the gods that the driving was close to the end. I also tried the Jalapeno Wheat. I could not even finish it. I am a pepper wuss and this was peppery.

Guest Review of Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

“First taste is smokey followed by pretty strong alcohol ending in a biting bitter. No real chocolate taste. Complex and full but for a chocolate stout give me the Rogue. Drank it over three days while doing input for work. ”

This beer usually retails for over $12.00 if you are lucky so this sounds like a thumbs down to me.

Unibroue Tasting

If you weren’t at Bottle Rock in Culver City on Monday then you missed a treat. Unibroue was pouring 7 beers plus a special for only $15.00. Here are my thoughts…

Blanche de Chambly
– bubbly and carbonated. Light straw in color. Had a wine aroma. Easy to drink. Not as spicy as I would like in a white beer.

Ephemere – bubbly as well. Apple taste was not as pronounced as in previous bottles. Nice farmhouse aroma. One of favorites.

Don de Dieu – caramel smell. Triple Wheat ale. Lovely orange-golden color. A little spice on the back end. Probably my second favorite.

Maudite – very alcoholy even though less ABV’s than the Don de Dieu. Complex but not in a good way. Flavors seemed to fight each other.

La Fin du Monde – very similar to the Don de Dieu but with much more of an alcoholic bite to it. Beautiful golden color.

Trois Pistoles – lovely dark color. Not much aroma. Better balance of flavors than the Maudite.

La Terrible – biggest ABV of the bunch but also very lovely. Nice lace on the glass. Dry.

As a special treat, there was a Unibroue beer served up that you cannot get here in Southern California. La Seigneuriale. What they call a Belgian Strong Pale. In English it means, Lord of the Manor. Very nice amber with lots of competing flavors that don’t get in the way of each other. It is my bronze winner of the night.

logo_seigneuriale

Tasting notes

Here are my notes from my tasting at 55 Degree Wine & Beer Store and from BJ’s.
55

The Foret really was alcohol from aroma to taste. Kind of tinny and not as complex as Saison Dupont which is the gold standard for Saisons. Between the two, I would always go for Dupont.

Ahh! St. Bernardus. Their Wit is the gold standard in this category. Sparkling. Effervescent. Tasted like oranges. Pitch perfect. In comparison, I also had BJ’s seasonal Nit Wit. Great name. Mediocre beer. Not much flavor. Just sort of sat there. Unfortunately, that is pretty much the same review I could give for every BJ’s beer. Nothing remarkable.

The McChouffe Brown was good. Nice and solid. Not much aroma. Nice earthy flavor though. A little chewier than most browns.

Mission IPA. I saw that it was made in San Diego and thought HOP BOMB! But this is restrained. You can really smell the hops but when you take a drink, it is a balance of malt and hops. Very nice.

Lastly, the St. Peters Old Style Porter. Very nice Porter. I liked it. Nice and drinkable. Not too smoky but not too light either. Another balanced beer.

Sour Wench

I was in the celebratory mood because Eagle Rock Brewery passed another permit hurdle today so I went over to the nearby Verdugo. I tried the Sour Wench from Ballast Point.

This is a beer brewed with blackberries. Sam Adams also has a new Blackberry Wit so I guess that blackberries are the hip fruit. This offering isn’t particularly sour nor is it super fruity. It is right in the middle. Thanks to the berries it is more interesting than other beers and it does have an awesome red look to it.

Not really to my taste however, but I can see how this would be an excellent starter for someone who wants to try fruit and/or sour beers.

new Abita beer

2812009154735200_Abbey_Ale
This is a nice looking red-amber ale. As you may have figured out by now, I am a sucker for brewery special releases. This one is a nice Belgian dubbel. With part of the proceeds going to the St. Joesph Abbey. Not much aroma but it does carry an alcoholic punch. Not bad but it could use a little more spice to counteract the alcohol and malt.