Up From the Cellar – 2013 Barleywine from Oakshire

Every twice in awhile, I get a wild hare and go to raiding the beer cellar. Sorry, been listening to the S-Town podcast.

Going back to the halcyon days of 2013 for a barleywine from Oakshire Brewing of Eugene, Oregon.

This one did bubble over even though I let it rest for a bit. As I cleaned up the mess, I got a vinous note in the aroma that worried me a bit. And when poured into the glass, there were flecks of brown stirring around.

Some oxidization had happened but as the beer warmed up, it became much more oaky and bourbon barrel. The caramel notes were intermingling with the remaining hop character as well in the this opaque light brown beer. Getting a touch of chocolate as well.

I would hazard a guess that this beer was better a couple years ago. The fade to barrel has simplified a beer that I hazard a guess was happier and less sweet.

Review – Bourbon County Stout (2013 vs 2015)

OK, so it not a battle when it involves two great beers. But let’s take a look at my thoughts on the 2013 and the 2015 versions of the original Bourbon County Stouts from Goose Island.
The most notable part of my first sips of the 2013 is a biting sharpness in the middle. I was expecting a beer mellower and heavier.  And this BCS is both heavy and light with hot chocolate notes. As it warms the heat starts to show more throughout the taste instead of that spike in the middle. This stout is very dry. The Bourbon is tucked in there but not oppressive it is more 1/3 of the pie.

The latest version starts with that same sharpness as the 2013 with more vanilla to it as opposed to chocolate. That vanilla fades though into more raisin notes that I associate with Quads and Belgians. Seems less complex than the 2013. And again the bourbon is just a member of the team and not the star.

These are my thoughts as I sipped from both beers.  The take-away is that these beers are extremely similar.  The shared DNA is obviously there but to each individual palate the flavors with the biggest bounce might differ from mine.

Sean Suggests for December 2013


Time to break out and strong for Christmas. Get some beers to share with the family and friends around the fire. Here are three excellent and diverse choices for the Christmas.


Grand Teton / Coming Home Belgian Dubbel 7.5% ABV

“Brewed in the Belgian Dubbel tradition, this year’s Coming Home Holiday Ale is big and bold yet imminently drinkable. Coming Home 2013 features celebratory flavors of dark sugar and raisins and a spicy, dry finish. It was brewed with pale and brown malts plus special dark candi sugar. The sugar addition provides a sweet aroma and dark fruit flavors without the cloying thickness typical of all-malt brews. Coming Home 2013 was fermented with ale yeast from a Belgian Trappist monastery to add hints of nutmeg, clove and other holiday spices. At 7.5% ABV this is an ale to be savored, enjoyed with friends over a holiday meal or paired with flavorful cheeses.”


The Bruery / Six Geese A Laying 11.5% ABV

“6 Geese-A-Laying is the 6th beer in our “12 Days of Christmas” series and is a return to the more classic dark and toasty winter ale, following the
appropriately blonde 5 Golden Rings. Brewed with cape gooseberries, this malty ale displays notes of plums, dark cherry and bright, citrus-like flavors from the namesake berries. Delicious right now, but suitable for aging up to 6 years, upon the release of 12 Drummers Drumming”


He’Brew / Jewbelation Reborn 17 17.0% ABV

“How could we hope to top last year’s Jewbelation Sweet 16 with its cupcakes, unicorns, & Satan’s Ferrari birthday cake? massive challenge. So for Year 17, we threw in a whole new dimension to our shtick – we built our very own brewery! After 17 years of contract brewing, our first Shmaltz Clifton Park batch emerged 17 months after the first draft of the business plan.”

Holiday Beer Review – Anchor Our Special Ale 2013

I have saved up Anchor Christmas beers from 2008 through this year’s version for a special taste test.  Notes below are on each year as it tastes when opened in December of this year.  Followed by a short video of the major tasting….



The 2008 has a mixture of a brandy or sherry / soy sauce.  The head really holds up on this one.  Lots of maple syrup and soy sauce in this one.  I fear it’s prime is now way long past.  And yet I still have 1 bottle for next year.

The 2009 is still woodsy.  A touch of spruce is there.  Lighter than the 2008 and a little crisp as well.  Very much like the Steam beer just with age and spruce.

2010 has a lot of cider notes to it.  It reminded me of some English beers that have a touch of that note in the back.  It sticks to the tongue as well.


2011 – 2013

The ’11 is the worst smelling of the bunch.  I get a little bit of tree note but then more cardboard.  It is worse when cold.  As it warms it does get better but it is the least of the bunch.  Has some sour to it as well.  Some light coffee notes in the back.

2012 has more of an espresso head to it.  It is a mix of spruce and caramel.  It is smooth and a little viscous.  A touch of cider to it as well.

And here are my notes from last year when I did the vertical tasting……

Very frothy pour with an espresso head. Aroma hints that this one may have passed prime tasting time. An old ale background with a touch of sour creeping in. Very British ale tasting.

Another frothy beer. Both were stored standing up so I don’t think it was my cellaring technique. But this one had a much lighter head to it. Some minor roast notes and a little whisper of pine. That same sourness and apple cider taste is evident in this one as in 2008.

This one poured better. More Belgian-y. Good sparkle to this one in comparison to the flatter beers form ’08 and ’09. More coffee acidity here. Again the tree and pine notes are only faint and way in the background.

Dark with a brown ale backbone. Not much spice or flavor in the 2011. Even tastes a little thin. If the others did not stand up to aging then I fear for this one.

L.A. Beer Week in Review


Another L.A. Beer Week is in the books and this year, I took a more relaxed approach to the “Week+”. I did not schedule an event (or two) each and every night.  In years past, I would scurry around Los Angeles hoping to not miss a single beer. Now I know that I should enjoy each beer as it comes and not worry so much about the next.  And not go chasing waterfalls.

With that as a reference point, my personal version of LA Beer Week was quite fun. My quick snapshot:

I had a taste of Double Mountain beer from my home state of Oregon at Sunset Beer Co.  Tasted three versions of Eagle Rock’s Solidarity at Story Tavern. Learned about beer writing and writing for the interwewbs at at the L.A. Beer Bloggers meeting at Angel City.  Volunteered at Union Station and marveled at how fast it came together.  Went on a Brue D’Etat at Glendale Tap.  Was treated to some great food and Green Flash beer at Tuning Fork.  Sampled beers (and found two favorites) from new San Diego brewery, Modern Times.  Went rare at Smog City and El Segundo breweries with grapes and melons.  And ended by Taking the Black on the roof above Blue Palms.  Not a bad line-up considering I also took two days off to recharge my beer batteries.

My favorite beers were Blue Sugar Cubed from El Segundo and Grape Ape from Smog City with Fortunate Islands and Blazing World from Modern Times in my third and fourth slots.  Golden Brett from Allagash would round out my top five for the stretch of time.  Craftsman’s Oktoberfest would also be close in there.

The only event that I really wish I could have gone to was the Craftsman/Maximilliano dinner.  After seeing what Craftsman brought to Union Station and knowing what the food is like at Maximilliano, I can imagine a tremendous experience.  Count yourself lucky if you were there.

I know in some minds, the festival, be it at the end as in years past, or as an opening gala like this year is the measuring stick for the success L.A. Beer Week.  For some, it is the only event people attend.  (Which I think is crazy)  I have not written much about the Union Station event because I was a small cog in the group that arranged and executed the event. Moving to a new space inside Union Station created a new set of issues that the craft beer selection eventually bested, but I think with some medium sized alterations that it could be improved.

First though, gotta talk about the elephant in the room.  Much blog ink has been spilled about the entry cost but, to me, the first to complain are those that don’t look at all at either the price tag for Union Station or the donations to the LA Brewers Guild and The Spero Foundation. You, the customer, get unlimited tastings from a wicked set of brewers in exchange for helping out two organizations doing good in the real world and the LA Beer World.  Most times when you donate charitably you get a happy feeling for doing good and maybe some address labels.  Here you got beer!  And instead of organizing so called Fest Boycotts, how about patronizing a craft beer bar and spend your money there? Help create a stronger L.A. Craft Beer Community.  Don’t set yourselves apart from it.  Maybe create a fringe beer festival or a home brew fest? I am a fan of positive suggestions instead of kvetching and moaning.  Turn the spent grains into something.

Now that my mini-rant is over, my suggestions start with… Better signage akin to what the Downtown LA Beer Crawl created is really needed. From where to line-up, what beers are available and where food is located.  Professional signage with the logo emblazoned on it is a must.   The smaller space also requires more bathrooms and a food solution needs to be found. (that may be logistically hard but maybe there is a way to squeeze into another room).  I would also split it into two sessions and skip the after party. Lastly, I would have a pair of Festival volunteers roaming the area available to answer questions, talk about the Untappd badge and generally let people know about other events during the week.

I have been asked repeatedly what makes a successful beer week. That can be split into personal and the entire city. From my personal standpoint, each of the five iterations of L.A. Beer Week have had enough fun and odd events to make it fun.  From an overall standpoint, if the craft beer profile is raised a notch in the L.A. area, then it is worth it. And from my journeys over the past ten days, I think that goal was achieved.

Review – Firstone Walker Velvet Merkin

Very lucky.  That is what I am thinking as I slowly slip the re-incarnated Velvet Merkin (2013) that I received from Firestone Walker.


This is a near perfect beer.    It falls into the category of beers that you could smell all day long.  That you would bottle as cologne. A beautiful mixture of coconut and roast and bourbon and barrel melding together.

But you have to drink it, and it is velvety smooth.  So that each sip lingers. It is under 9% in alcohol so you don’t get a burn in the throat. The bourbon really comes out in the flavor and just envelops the tongue.  How Matt Brynildson does it, I do not know but this is simply a fantastic beer.


Your 2013 Decadence


If you think of AleSmith and their Decadence Anniversary beers, and you had to guess as to what style they would brew for 2013, I don’t think that a dark lager would have been amongst your top 3 guesses. And I like it that a brewery can still keep people guessing.

“Decadence was first released in 2005 to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. AleSmith has released a new version of Decadence each year around our anniversary date in late fall. The style chosen each year is different, but you can be sure that it will always fit the description of Decadence!”

So kudos to AleSmith for the offbeat stylistic choice for Decadence this year.

Review – Longshot 2013

Three reviews in One!   from the Sam Adams / Boston Beer Co.  Here are my thoughts from the latest Longshot…..
Beerflower Wheat
Pours a medium orange color. Has a spicy and herbal taste. Somewhat reminiscent of Dr. Pepper. The hibiscus is tame here which is good because it can take over a beer. Not bad but two of three of this year’s longshots remind me more of soda than beer.
Strawberry Lager
Pop the cap and a blast of strawberry hits the air. It has a big strawberry taste that is pretty close to jolly rancher / candy flavor. It pours a medium yellow color and has a nice fizz to it. Just to sweeet to me and not much else there.
Magnificent 7 IPA
Probably the most disappointing of the group.  Pours a golden orange color.  Aroma is fine, just doesn’t knock my socks off.  Too much caramel here for my taste.  The hop bitterness is good but this group of 7 don’t coalesce on my palate.

Parabola 2013

Earlier today, I gave you a shopping list with three excellent choices to take to your local beer shoppe, and now here is a fourth that you had better pick up from Firestone-Walker….

our_beers_PARABOLA 2013

I can only parrot back this quote that I found on the press release from the brewery, ““This is the best Parabola we’ve ever made,” Brynildson says.”

What else do you need?  Seriously?  Buy two or three if you are on a limited beer budget because these will age beautifully.  Or find a tap house that is hosting Firestone-Walker and get there when they open.

Here is the description if you need more impetus to buy it, “As always, brewing this massive barrel-aged Russian imperial oatmeal stout continues to be a challenge—“It’s like extracting liquid from a big oatmeal cookie,” says Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. The recipe is unchanged, but the 2013 vintage comes with a fresh twist on the barrel-aging front, specifically the incorporation of retired bourbon barrels from Four Roses Distillery in Kentucky.”