More from the west coast, Drakes Denogginizer Dipa.

The saying goes, when in Rome, well, when on the west coast, buy hoppy ales.

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 So that is what I did. I picked this up along with a few others to bring back. I’ve heard good things about Drakes 1500 and Alpha session, so when I spotted this double ipa, I had to pick it up. With a name like Denogginizer, you get a good idea what the beer is going to about. This isn’t a delecate balanced ale, it’s bitter, piney, floral, and resinous. Golden orange in color with a tight head, and medium body, this beer is definately a sipper. 

 

Vitals: Served at 45F in a Willi Becher. 9.75% ABV 90 IBU. Organic, estate grown hops.

Taste: B. Simple, very bitter, medium bodied, not fruity, very piney.

Drinkability: B. This is not going to be followed up by another.

Packaging: A-. The label has everything you are looking for, with one minor exception, no bottled, packaged, fresh by date. The details about hop variety (simcoe, colombus, amarillo, cascade), and grains are apreciated, as are abv and ibu. 

Value: b. Under 7 for a bomber, and unavailable outside of CA.   

 

 

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Russian River Brewing Supplication

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“Ale aged in pinot noir barrels with cherries added.” I’ve been wondering about this one ever since Shannon brought it back from a west coast business trip and presented it to me. “It was my favorite,” she offered. Oh, the pressure.

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As most of you know, Russian River Brewing Company is revered in craft beer circles. Vinnie “invented” the imperial IPA category with Pliny the Elder and has continued to push the envelope when it comes to craft beer. Their location in Northern California gives them access to the freshest hops and a multitude of other raw ingredients (including wine barrels) to make interesting beer. This is definitely interesting. I liken it to the bourbon barrel aged stout from Founders and others, in that it’s a combination of flavors and characteristics that challenge your thought of what beer is and/or is supposed to be.

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It pours with a beautiful, billowing head that quickly dissipates to a thin film and eventually to nothing. No lacing remains. It’s smells both funky and fresh at the same time, if that’s possible. The funk is likely from the wine barrels and freshness from the cherries. The first taste is tart. The second taste is tart. This is a tart beer. It doesn’t quite make my lips pucker, but it’s close. The balance is incredible. The alcohol is so hidden it may as well be 3%, not the 7% it says on the label. This may not be my favorite winter beer (it’s currently 30F outside), but it could easily be one of my favorite warm weather options.

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Vital Stats: Served at 45F in my trusty tulip. 7% ABV.

Taste: A. Perfect for the style.

Drinkability: A. I wish I had another one in the fridge.

Packaging: A+. Chock full of info. In fact, the info on the back of the bottle let me know this was originally a brown ale when it went into the wine barrels. It sure doesn’t taste like a brown now. That’s was a little Brett and sour cherries will do for a beer.

Value: B. Well, for folks on the East Coast like me, this is a tough one. If you know someone, it’s not too expensive to get, but it’s still hard. If I was in CA this would be a staple in my fridge.

Stone Brewing Company’s Enjoy By 12/21/12 Imperial IPA

I had originally tried this beer at Thanksgiving along with 2 other titans of the IPA world:  The Alchemist’s Heady Topper and Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Hopzilla.  A veritable Monsters of Hops broke out in my in-laws’ kitchen that Thursday.

 

The Hopzilla had a much fuller malt character making it more balanced.  The Heady Topper, canned the previous day, was its usual fresh, sticky hop-bomb self.  The Enjoy By fit very nicely between the two, featuring a more grassy profile than the others, but the freshness was unmistakable.  Right up there with the day-old Heady Topper which is a feat considering this beer was probably brewered a month earlier and 3000 miles away.

 

Tonight I’m trying it a full three weeks later, mere days from the latest date it’s intended (at least for marketing purposes) to be enjoyed.

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This is a beer you smell the moment you open the bottle.  Bright, floral, grassy hop aromas fill the air right away.  You can’t ignore it. 

 

Enjoy By pours a beautiful straw color, very clear and with little carbonation visible (more on that in a minute).  I wish I’d paid closer attention when I opened the young bottle to see if the carbonation was any different with that one.  A thick, foamy head was easily achieved and the foam clung to the glass creating a lacy histogram of my pauses in sipping to type this review.

 

There’s nice prickly carbonation when you take a sip which didn’t match up with the few bubbles I saw.  Crisp and inviting without much in the way of sugary malts.  The malts that there are to balance it come at the very back end but do nice work to hold off-putting bitterness more or less at bay.  Fresh hops pretty much the whole way through each sip with grapefruit, orange, and grassy hops dominating.  A slight bitterness to the finish and some warming but that’s mostly well-masked.  Mouthfeel is on the light end of medium and slightly oily.  You feel like it’s really coating your tongue.

 

Is it the beer I’d want to see out the planet earth and my own existence with?  Not quite.  It could do with a slightly less bitter finish (at times there was a chalkiness to it which I’m not a huge fan of).  But that is a very minor quibble with this exceptional beer.  It mops the floor with 98% of this very fashionable beer sub-genre.

 

My apotheosis Imperial IPA would probably be Heady Topper or perhaps Lagunitas Sucks.  But this is a damn good beer.  A damn good beer.

 

It is bested by only a handful of other imperial IPA’s I’ve tried in my apparently soon-to-be-ending life, and that’s saying something.  Hats off to Stone.

 

Vitals:  9.4% ABV, poured at about 50F into a glass from the 22 oz bottle.

 

Taste:  A-  The care put into this beer is evident.  A few minor adjustments I’d make personally, but this is a special imperial IPA.  Well done, Stone.

 

Drinkability:   C+  It’s a big beer ABV-wise.  Best shared (as I’m sure you’ve heard us say many times on this blog), but you won’t mind doing so because there’s plenty to talk about with this one.

 

Packaging:  A  You pretty much know what to expect from Stone; they have their brand and they’re sticking to it.  The Gargoyle makes his appearance, and as usual, they ace the written portion of the label test.  In the world of craft-beer label text, I’d say 1 and 1A are Stone and Lagunitas.  Stone is long-form (almost to a fault) and Lagunitas is short-form with a sense of humor I love.  Stone :  blogs :: Lagunitas : Twitter if that makes sense.

 

Value:  Something supremely limited (until/if the Mayans are proven wrong) like this is hard to put a value on.  I’ll give it an A- because this is a good beer, and I need to make a few extra deposits in the karma bank just in case we are indeed slouching towards Ragnarök.

 

On a final note, I applaud Stone for making the effort to keep freshness a priority (a concept Sam Adams pioneered, but Stone has taken to a whole new level, giving their beer a few short weeks of shelf life).  I’m sure you could enjoy Enjoy By beyond the date associated with each batch, but it’s the principal of what they’re doing that I applaud.  This can’t be easy for a brewery with national distribution.

 

Have you tried Enjoy By?  If so, let us know the date and batch.  3 weeks on, it’s definitely not as bright and fresh as a few days after release.

Review: Ballast Point @BPBrewing Dorado Double IPA

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San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing produces one of the proverbial best IPAs out there, their Sculpin IPA.  I’ve had in it large and small bottles and on draft on the West Coast and it’s fortunately a staple in most craft beer stores locally in Massachusetts.  It’s in my top five IPAs and I recommend it all the time. Recently I had the opportunity to grab a bottle of their DIPA, Dorado, and have been saving it for a review.  

Dorado smells of a rich blend of pine and grapefruit and pours a deep clear orange color. Very little head faded away quickly leaving light lacing.  I’m also a fan of a heavy pour to evoke flavors and smells, and the grapefuit citrus smell did not disappoint.  On the taste buds this is no doubt a hop bomb – any subtle malt flavor gets overwhelmed with a tsunami of hops.  The label says “Mash hopping, kettle hopping & dry hopping” – not sure the IBUs on this one but it has to be fairly high.  I am a fan of big hops with malt holding back back just from the edge and this delivers exactly that.  I have had the bottle for a couple months, and even though the “enjoy by” date stands at 7/31/13 I hope to get the chance to try some fresh.  Interesting that there no mention of the beer on the company website – looks like this is part of their “Robust Series” that they rarely bottle.  

In the description on the bottle it says, “Hopheads rejoice!” – and rejoice we shall.  

Vital Stats:  Served at 45F in a small tulip (glass is from Russian River – I figure West Coast nod was appropriate).  10% ABV.

Taste: A-.  Hops, hops and more hops – probably as bitter as I would go.  Nice cirtus/pine combo for a classic DIPA.

Drinkability: B.  ABV is up there, not the most sessionable of DIPAs (I know that’s a non sequitor but there are some I could drink all day).

Packaging: B+.  I love Ballast Point’s artwork – the Dorado is another name for the dolphinfish and they kept this as a nice complement to their other beers donning aquatic names.    

Value: C.  $9.99 for a growler is pretty high. Same store on occasion has Heady Topper for $5 a can, making this look way too expensive even though it seems to be rare in New England.

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DRAFT My Personal Mecca: A Visit to Russian River Brewery

When my boyfriend’s brother moved to Napa, CA I was thrilled:I knew a visit would be in order and that meant one thing: RUSSIAN RIVER!! I know most people would have been excited to tour wineries and sample fancy wines; I just wanted Pliny out of the tap.

In late September we headed West and spent a glorious afternoon in Santa Rosa. I wasn’t prepared for the intiail look and feel of the Brewery itself, I was expecting a different vibe, but our approach left us apprehensive. Were we heading to the home of Pliny, or to a Buffalo Wild Wings? 

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Rest assured, inside was a brew-pubby as a place could be. Two giant chalkboards are the focal point behind the bar, loaded with all your delicious drinking options. Vintage signs from beer brands of yore cover the walls, and the place was packed. Granted it was 11am on a Saturday, but I understand it’s pretty much always busy. We wait 20 minutes for a table, and didn’t waste any time heading straight to the bar to order our first drink. 

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Recognzing the the afternoon was a marathon not a sprint I ordered a 1/2 pint of Pliny the Elder. The beer was delicious, a perfect Pliny. Piney, hoppy, cirtrusy and bright. If you love IPAs and are ever near Santa Rose pop in – I’ve had it on tap before, but this was the best I’ve had (straight from the maker’s teat, if you will.)

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(Cool note: to encourage sampling beers can be ordered in 1/2 pint, pint, ptichers and goblets, depending on the variety.)

 

We settled into a small table and perused the menu – I’ve included both sides of the beer selection here for you. Our server was vaery nice, and probably accostomed to pilgroms like me – when she noticed all the photos I was taking she said I should take the menu home. 

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 The beer was delicious, a perfect Pliny. Piney, hoppy, cirtrusy and bright. If you love IPAs and are ever near Santa Rose pop in – I’ve had it on tap before, but this was the best I’ve had (straight from the maker’s teat, if you will.)

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Of the 18 I wasn’t surprised by my favorites – I love the aged sours: Tempetation, Consecration and Supplication (my favorite) but it was nice to try everything they had on tap that day.

While this wasn’t a typical brewery experience (no tour, located in a strip mall type area) I would highly recommened it to any beer fan. The wide variety of beer on tap alone is a reason to go, if you’re in the Santa Rosa area don’t miss it.

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PS: The crowd was super diverse – including a group of bikers with sweet rides like this one!

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Life is uncertain. Don’t sip: Lagunitas Brown Shugga’

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A year after I missed out on trying Lagunitas Sucks! I’m still sad. When I saw a six-pack of Brown Shugga’ at my local beer store I picked it up, not wanting to miss out on this holiday release. I’m normally a hops-lover, but as the weather turns colder I like to sample some more robust ales and stouts, and I think Brown Shugga’ is a great example of a solid ale to keep stocked for visitors. 

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It pours a gorgeous coppery golden color with a big foamy head. This might be attributed to poor pouring on my part. Even my non-beer drinking boyfriend said “That doesn’t look like a proper pour.” As the head calmed down it left a beautiful thick lace along the glass. 

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The first sip was pinier than I expected, the hops were a pleasant surprise. As the beer warmed up each sip became maltier with tasty caramel, and yes, brown sugar notes. I really enjoyed this ale. It’s the perfect beer to try out on less outwardly adventurous drinkers; at first sip it’s pretty accessible, but over the course of the glass it becomes more complex. I’d definitely recommend this, but am still eagerly awaiting the return of Lagunitas Sucks!

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Vitals:  Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint  glass straight out of the (regular*) fridge. 9.9% ABV

Taste:  B+  Tasty ale with a nice warm finish.  An ale is never my first choice, but I’d definitely recommend to ale drinkers, or to an IPA lover like me looking to sample something more winter-appropriate while still getting your hops fix.

Drinkability B+  I didn’t realize until after I’d finished the glass that it is 9.9% ABV. Doesn’t have a strong alcohol taste at all, but it sneaks up on you. 

Packaging  I love all the Lagunitas labels. Nothing fancy, but strong brand aesthetics with the usual fun tidbits: “Life is uncertain. Don’t sip.”

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Value:  B+  $10.99 for a six pack. I think this is a good value for a solid beer. 

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*In very exciting news we recently purchased a separate small fridge just for my beer collection! Merry early christmas to me!