Monday, January 31, 2011

A Plea for Pliny

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Jan. 31, 2011

My efforts on Beer Advocate to reach a trade agreement with someone in posession of some of Russian River's "Pliny the Elder" (and "Pliny the Younger" for that matter) have come up short.  So, while I will be looking to r/beertrade as well, I thought I would put out a plea for it here on the site as well.  I would prefer to do the trade via BA or Reddit, but I am open to other arrangements as well.  Get in touch if you can help me out on this one.  I have a feeling it is going to be the most difficult of the Top 20 for me to track down, so I'm trying to get on this early in the process.

On a seperate note, even though I have only just begun the process of working through the Top 20 Double IPAs on Beer Advocate, I have some ideas about what the next 20 beers will be, but I want to hear your suggestions as well.  They do not necessarily have to be from Beer Advocate, nor do they necessarily have to have a theme.  The theme could simply be 20 beers that YOU want to see reviewed.  If you have any thoughts or ideas, leave a comment below and we'll go from there.

Finally, be on the look out tonight for my review of Great Divide's "Hercules" Double IPA.  It is currently ranked 10th on the list with 1,183 reviews averaging out to an A-.  So we'll see where I land on the issue.  The beer is currently chilling in the fridge and I'm excited!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Three Floyds (FFF) Dreadnaught

Posted by: Stonecipher
Jan. 28, 2011
The first time I tried the Dreadnaught from Three Floyds I was not impressed.  I split a bomber with a friend at our local beer bar and my expectations were very high.  I had been drinking a little bit before hand and I was more focused on the conversation than the beer, so I know it didn’t really get a fair shake from me.  So let’s see how this goes.  By the way, in the picture, you will notice, my local pint glass – it was specially selected to house this local beer.  So, without further ado, here is my review of Three Floyds Dreadnaught Double IPA:
APPEARANCE:  The Dreadnaught poured a very pale, almost straw-like color and had a pretty, but fairly thin, maybe a quarter of an inch, head resting on top.  The bubbles were almost uniformly tiny, but as it is sitting here and the head is fading away a few larger bubbles have randomly appeared.  Very pretty, full and foamy lacing lines both the left and right side of the glass, but not the side I am drinking from or the opposite side.  I noticed the same thing with the Hopslam and I am now wondering if this is a typical characteristic of a Double IPA.
SMELL:  It smells a lot like the Hopslam I reviewed last time, only less intense.  Honey and caramel are the most noticeable aromatic qualities.  Three Floyds claims on the bottle that the beer “has an opening salvo of mango, peach and citrus hop aromas”, and while the citrus and mango are noticeable, my nose was incapable of finding any peach.  Interesting, but the lack of peach didn’t upset me to much.
TASTE:  A very complex beer.  The first sip begins with a complete departure from the nose when a hoppy and bitter flavor attacks the palate.  The honey, caramel and pine from the nose, however, are not far behind as they show up briefly mid-sip.  As the sweetness fades away the pine flavor remains, but it becomes bitterer.  Yep, that is the correct word, bitterer, which seems unusual, just like the bitter pine flavor at the end of this sip.  The aftertaste is very bitter and tastes almost like someone just dragged a hop across the tongue. 
MOUTHFEEL:  Just like the taste, the mouthfeel of the Dreadnaught is very complex as well.  At first it seems like be very thin and flat, without a whole lot of carbonation, but at the very end of the sip it not only tastes like someone dragged a hop cone across the tongue, but it also feels that way.  The beer seems to bite at the end.  Interesting and pretty cool feel, it is certainly not the typical mouthfeel. 
OVERALL:  I am very happy I gave this beer a second try.  The first time the conditions were not right and I wasn’t in a situation where I could focus on and appreciate its complexity.  Also, maybe I had a bad bottle, who knows?  The point is, this is a very finely crafted, complex and unique beer.  Three Floyds should be congratulated for every beer they brew, but the Dreadnaught is special even by their high standards.  That said, this is a beer for professionals, unlike the Hopslam, this is not the beer you give to someone to introduce them to the style.  Dreadnaught is only for the grownups at the table. 
DRAWBACKS:  Part of what I liked about this beer was the roller coaster ride it took the palate on, but at the same time, some of the transitions were a little too abrupt.  To cram in as much complexity as they did in this beer, I suppose it requires some quick changes though.  Other nitpicky issues – the color was not very appetizing, the nose could have been slightly more intense and I would have liked more sparkle at the front of the sip. 
SOUND:  This one is a no-brianer.  I was talking to a friend of mine last night who knows how to play Stevie Wonder’s Superstition on the drums and we were discussing just how complex it is on many levels.  If the Three Floyds was a musician it would be Stevie Wonder and the Dreadnaught would be Superstition. 

OK, I wanted to save the stats for last on this one, since I was kind of writing “live” and didn’t want to ruin the “how did it turn out?” surprise for everyone, so here you go:
ABV: 9.5%
IBUs: 100
Brewery Location: Munster, Indiana
Style: Double IPA
Beer Advocate Average Rating: A/4.39 – Outstanding
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.2 – Excellent
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 1212/8th
Brewery Description: Three Floyds Brewing Company


Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Ska Rainbow

Posted by: Stonecipher

Jan. 27, 2011

This is slightly off-topic, but still beer related and I thought it was a great looking picture.  For those of you who don't know Ska Brewing Company out of Durango, Colorado, you really need to check them out.  They currently only distribute to five states: Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina and Illinois, but I am more than happy to make a trade via Beer Advocate, so send me some Beer Mail and we'll talk.

 EDIT: Apparently it is now available in eight states, Missouri is one of the others, but I do not know the other two.  If anyone can help me out on this, I'd appreciate it.  Couldn't find the others on their website.

EDIT 2: Looks like we've got Kansas and Texas as well, that's the eight.  Don't think there are any more.

EDIT 3: We have State #9 - My former home of Nebraska.  Thanks Nate B.!

Anyhow, more about the picture here: the four cans are the only four that Ska is currently canning, from left to right: Euphoria (A hoppy, winter IPA), Modus Hoperandi (Probably their most well-known brew), True Blonde (A delicious and light blond ale) and ESB (Might be their flagship beer).

In addition to their canned line-up Ska also has some excellent bottles and even better specialty beers available in 22oz. bombers, my favorite of which, of course, is the Decadent Imperial India Pale Ale.  Sadly, it has not cracked the Top 20 of most reviewed DIPAs on BA yet, but I might just do a review of it sometime soon anyway.  It is certainly worthy of being there, just not quite distributed enough to get there at this point.  Although, Ska was recently upgraded from the status of microbrewery to regional craft brewery

Here's a link to Ska's BA Profile - link.  So I guess this is now just going to turn into a full-blown post about the brewery, here's some pictures from my visit:

First up, the canning line cranking out some ESB:

And this is what came straight off the line and into my hand.  The people there were so friendly and so excited about their beer:

 In the tap room:

Both times I have been in the tap room the sun has been shining outside and it feels like it is shining inside too.  The room is bright, open, airy and a very comfortable place to be.  And that brings me to one of the best parts about traveling to Ska, Zia Taqueria, located right outside on the patio:

So there you have it.  What began as my desire to simply post a picture of some pretty cans of beer I had a few weeks ago turned into a big, long post about my favorite brewery.  Enjoy and leave a comment.  Tell me what your favorite Ska beer is, or let me know about your experience at the Brewery.  Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bell's Brewery Hopslam 2011 Release

Posted by: Stonecipher

Jan. 25, 2011

OK, so with the very first review I'm directly contradicting the name of this blog, oh well.  It's about 3:30 in the afternoon here in Chicago and I have been working on important stuff all day, plus I have this six-pack of fresh Bell's Hopslam in the fridge that is calling my name, so I think it is about that time - time for a Bell's Hopslam from Bell's Brewery.

First, some basic facts:
ABV: 10.0%
IBUs: Somewhere in the range of 69 - 136.  The debate rages on.
Brewery Location: Kalamazoo, MI
Style: Double IPA
Beer Advocate Average Rating: A/4.43 - Outstanding
My Beer Advocate Rating: A+/4.75 - Exceptional
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 2,034/3rd
Brewer's Description: Click on the Hopslam thumbnail.

Now, before I dive into this review, it is worth noting that I reviewed this beer last year as well on Beer Advocate and if you click here you'll see my BA review.  My palate was just beginning to become sophisticated enough to understand what I was drinking, but I was too stupid to know that the Hopslam was a DIPA and therefore, pretty high in the ABV department.  Anyhow, I wrote the following review before I re-read the old BA one and it is interesting to see compare the similarities and contradictions.  The one thing that stood out from the first review is the quote I used from a fellow bartender of mine "It's like they tried to fit two beers into that one bottle and somehow they fit."  Perfect description, even for the 2011 release.

Alright, without further ado, the review:

APPEARANCE:  Poured this into a snifter fairly aggressively and I was rewarded with a solid, foamy, quarter-inch thick head.  The bubbles are a mix of large and tiny with the bigger bubbles occupying the area towards the center of the glass.  The brilliant and almost completely clear golden color is reminiscent of the honey flavor that I know is waiting in this glass.  Interesting lacing, it appears to remain only on the left and right side of the glass instead of the opposite side I was drinking from and what remains are foamy pillars that stretch from the top to bottom.

SMELL:  The aroma hits the nose immediately with the Hopslam.  As soon as it is poured out of the bottle a sweet, piney, hoppy and honey smell fills the air.  As I move my nose closer to the glass the honey stands out as the dominating aroma.

TASTE:  Upon the first sip, the first thing that stands out is that this beer is more hoppy than it was last year.  True to its name, the hops slap your palate right up front, but as it sits on the tongue a sweet, honey flavor rises and falls before giving way to a bitter, but slightly piney aftertaste.  It is certainly a dryer beer than last year's release, and that, in my opinion is a good thing.  Bell's Brewery has managed to top near-perfection.

MOUTHFEEL:  Hopslam is very clearly a finely tuned, carefully crafted work of art, and while Bell's nailed the look, smell and taste of this beer, they did not forget about the feel.  My guess is that if this beer made any noise it would sound like Marvin Gaye singing "Inner City Blues".  Anyhow, back to the feel, generally, I like to feel a strong sparkle on my tongue, but the lighter sparkle, combined with an little bit of an oily feel make this beer go down extremely smooth.

OVERALL:  What else can I say about this beer?  I chose to review it first because A). it is in season and is fresh and B). it is one of my all-time favorites.  For 10% this is incredibly easy to drink.  The alcohol is certainly easy to detect, but it is so well balanced with the sweetness and hoppiness that it is easy to see how you can get into trouble with the Hopslam.  Maybe it's for the best that we only get to enjoy this delicious brew for a few months of the year.

DRAWBACKS:  There are not many flaws in this beer and you have to get very nitpicky to come up with any.  That said, the head retention and lacing could be a bit better, although that is not an easy proposition for a 10% DIPA, I understand that.  The only other thing I would change about this beer is that it could use a touch more bite on the mouthfeel.  Like I said, nitpicky.  But that's what you have to be when you're looking for drawbacks to an exceptional, near-perfect beer.

SOUND:  OK, I know beer doesn't produce a sound, but to add a little twist, I'm going to try to match up each beer to what I believe it would sound like if it could talk, sing or play some music.  To be fair, I think many of us have tried to talk to our beer at some point in the past, so hey, don't be too tough on me for this.  As I mentioned before, though, this beer is smooth, savory and sweet all at the same time and that is how I view Marvin Gaye's voice.  Given that Hopslam is one of my favorite beers it is only fitting that it would sound like one of my favorite songs "Inner City Blues".  In case you don't already have this gem in your music collection, here's a link to Marvin's "Gold" album on iTunes: 

Marvin Gaye: Gold - Marvin Gaye

Thanks for checking out the review.  Hope you enjoyed it and I hope you can get your hands on some Hopslam sometime soon.  It really is an exceptional beer.  Go ahead and leave a comment, tell me what you think of the blog, the beer or the review.  If you're too shy to do that, send me some Beer Mail on Beer Advocate, the user name is StoneTSR.  Cheers!