Monday, February 28, 2011

Review #6 - Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA

Posted by: Stonecipher

Feb. 26, 2011

Finally!  The Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe IPA is here!  Not all of it, but most of it. 
After a bunch of setbacks and two separate incidents in two different states resulting in bottles being broken, two of the four in the 4-pack arrived safely here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights World Headquarters in Evanston, IL.

So, as I embark on my first ever home brewing journey this afternoon I thought I would spend some of the downtime I have writing the Double Simcoe review.

Also, a special thanks to ‘nevins’ over at Beer Advocate for getting these bottles to me, this is the first beer on The List acquired by trade and I’m very excited.  First, as usual though, some quick facts about the beer:

ABV: 9%
IBUs: 153
Brewery Location: Easton, Pennsylvania
Style: American Double IPA
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.13 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.2 - Excellent
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 1,009/12th
Bottled On: NA

APPEARANCE:  (3.5 out of 5) The Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe IPA pours a nice, deep, reddish-brown that is cloudy and opaque.  A bubbly and very clean three-quarter inch head rests on top of the snifter housing the contents of the 12 oz. bottle it was poured from.  Retention on the head is not impressive and what little lacing was apparent early on in the glass slid away by the end. 

SMELL:  (4.0 out of 5) There has been some debate as to what type of aroma Simcoe hops produce, some have said fruity, others woody, and still more have said piney.  To me, however, there is no doubt about it; the aroma is heavily piney and very enticing.  A touch of orange and other citrus smells makes its way into the nose here, but the pine is in charge.  This is a good smelling beer and would have been a higher rating if it was a little more intense.

TASTE:  (4.5 out of 5) In terms of flavor, Simcoe hops are known for their bitter qualities and Weyerbacher’s certainly made sure that this 100% Simcoe hopped brew did not disappoint on that front.  This a beautifully balanced beer with just enough malt to make it go down smooth, but not so much that it takes away at all from the bitterness.  In addition to the malty hoppiness, the Double Simcoe also provides a hint of grapefruit in the citrus department; the orange from the nose is completely obliterated by the flavor, but the orange first, grapefruit second makes for a delicious combo.  This is a bitter beer, but it is not harsh at all and that makes it very accessible to those who may not be huge hop heads. 

MOUTHFEEL:  (3.0 out of 5) The Double Simcoe is smooth and a bit oily, which I am generally not a huge fan of, but the oily feel actually works to make this beer go down a bit easier.  Still, I prefer more sparkle in my beer and while the feel is not bad at all, it is somewhat of a let down.

OVERALL:  (4.5 out of 5) Considering that all 153 IBUs are very apparent in this beer it is an incredibly easy beer to drink.  While some Double IPAs, like Bell’s Hopslam are good for introducing beginners to the style, this might be more of an intermediate beer, for someone who is starting to develop a palate, but isn’t quite sure how much bitter they can handle.  A highly drinkable, bitter DIPA is not always easy to find, but the Double Simcoe nailed it for me.

DRAWBACKS:  In the two most important categories, taste and smell, the Double Simcoe IPA gets very high marks.  I was disappointed in the appearance and feel, however.  Although I already acknowledged that oily and less carbonated feel helped this beer go down easier, I don’t mind the slighter greater challenge to the palate that comes with some extra sparkle.  Additionally, the lack of head retention and lacing was a disappointment.  It may seem like a little thing, but seeing those rings and arches around the glass as the beer slowly disappears is a thing of beauty and excitement for a craft beer drinker and that was missed in this experience.

SOUND:  Pretention Alert!  Yep, as always in the sound category, my snooty taste in beer meets my snooty taste in music – and The Double Simcoe reminded me of one of my favorite groups for a very specific reason.  Jurassic 5 is an underground hip-hop group from Southern California (As a side note, one of their MCs, the very friendly Chali Tuna, is originally from Chicago) that has had more commercial success than many other groups of their ilk.  J5 has had their videos played on MTV, they’ve collaborated with Dave Matthews and both their 3rd and 4th albums, “Power in Numbers” and “Feedback” made it to the #15 spot on Billboard’s Top 200.

The point is, Jurassic 5 produces some very high quality hip-hop, but they have also had a good deal of success in mainstream pop/rap circles.  So they end up being the one good, underground hip-hop group that people with mediocre to bad taste actually enjoy.  The Double Simcoe IPA struck me as the type of beer that someone who thinks Harp and Bass are the epitome of fine beer would be able to tolerate and even brag to their friends about liking.  In other words, someone could slip this into their line-up, not fully explain what it was and they would end up inadvertently becoming craft beer advocates. 

In that same respect, I have met dozens of people who treated Jurassic 5 that way, in particular, the title track from their 2000 album “Quality Control”.  In case you have missed it for the past 11 years, check it out on iTunes here: 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

FedEx Sucks - And Why I STILL Have Not Reviewed Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA

Posted by: Stonecipher

Feb. 22, 2011

OK, I’ve had enough.  FedEx is the worst.

Some of you may recall a post here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights from a couple weeks ago in which I discussed my trade for some Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe IPA – Beer Number 12 on The List.  And some of you may even remember yet another post here in which I complained of some technical difficulties that prevented the Double Simcoe from arriving here when it was supposed to.  At the time of that post, however, the middle man, FedEx, had apologized for the mix up, assured me it was all under control and explained that I would most likely have my package within 48 hours.  So I didn’t rip into them at the time.

Well, here we are now, three promises, two assurances and six days later and still, no beer.  So, I believe it is time to tell the ridiculous story of just how screwed up FedEx is.

Let’s begin with this:

FedEx Detailed Shipment Travel History for my Package
If you look closely you'll see that this package left Massachusetts, bound for Illinois, on February 14, 2011, ten days ago.  

So far, so good.  

An expected arrival date of February 17 was attached to the information and it looked to be smooth sailing.  My plan was to crack open a Double Simcoe on Thursday Night and have the review up by Friday at the very latest.

Of course, that was not to be.  At 1:45 PM on the 17th the package apparently "Arrived at FedEx Location" in Northbrook, IL.  Then, a mere 13 minutes later at 1:58 PM, the shipment travel history claims that I, the recipient, could not be located.  This is weird for three reasons: 1). FedEx just delivered a different package to me about two weeks prior, so I know they know how to find me 2).  I was home all day that day, specifically so that I could be there when it arrived and 3).  It actually takes 23 minutes, according to Google, to get from Northbrook to my house - so they could not have possibly been trying very hard.

Regardless of how hard they may or may not have tried to deliver to me, though, they chose to send it about 8 minutes farther away from me to Wheeling, IL, where it sat for a few more hours before being shipped PAST MY HOUSE to Chicago.

I was unaware of all this at the time, but when I saw all the commotion on the travel log the following afternoon I picked up the phone and called FedEx.  I asked why I was unable to be located, but the friendly customer service representative could not give me an answer.  I then asked when I could expect it and she said by the 23rd.  "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I said "I live under an hour away, why is it going to take five more days to get here?"

"Well sir," she replied "We still have to ship it across country to San Francisco, if you aren't paying for overnight service we cannot get it to you any faster."

Of course that response sparked three minutes of conversation that was very confusing for both of us until we eventually realized that the problem was that someone along the line had changed the address from my Illinois address to a San Francisco, California one with a new street address, zip code and everything.

Now, it is worth noting here that I did once live in San Francisco, but the SF address FedEx had was not even close to my old address.  The only thing I could think of was that maybe I let an old habit creep up on me when I sent my shipping info to my beer trading partner - did I actually write my address with San Francisco in it somehow?  Turns out, no.  No I did not.  I checked my sent email and then further realized that the whole time, FedEx's shipment tracker was still showing a final destination of Illinois.  This was clearly their screw up.

Anyhow, the woman on the phone assured me that she would contact the Chicago location and make sure that the address was corrected before it was scheduled to leave again the following day, which was Saturday.  She also told me I could probably expect it the next day, or at worst, on Monday. 

So, despite the fact that the new estimated drop-off date was still showing February 23 about six hours after that phone call, I was content and guessed that it would arrive soon.

I was wrong.

Saturday, no package.

Sunday, of course they're closed, still no package.

Monday, no package and a suspicious lack of updating on the shipment travel history.

I picked up the phone again that afternoon and this time another very friendly customer service representative picked up the phone, only this time it took me four minutes to get through the obnoxious auto-response crap.  I explained the situation to her and she informed me that the warehouse is closed on Sunday and Monday, so nothing had left since Saturday, but she assured me that my package was slated to ship out to San Francisco first thing Tuesday morning.

And that is when my blood began to boil.  It was beginning to seem like no one at FedEx actually talked to each other, ever.  I'm fairly certain now that their communication system simply entails people writing things on post-it notes, throwing them out the window and hoping for the best.  The wind might blow it to the correct person, you never know.

So, for a second time, I explained that I live in ILLINOIS, not California.  And for a second time I was promised the package would not ship to California, but that they would make sure it got to me in Chicago.  When I asked if I could just come pick it up they told me no, but they offered to call me the next day to let me know what the status was.

Sure enough, Tuesday morning, they called back to inform me that everything was back on track, my package was certain to arrive in San Francisco, as promised, by Wednesday!

Are you kidding me !?!  Thanks a lot ass holes!

Seriously, I was outraged at this point, I mean, what could they have possibly been doing when I called earlier?  Was I not clear?  Who knows?

At this stage in the game it was much more difficult for me to be polite on the phone, but I did my best and despite my assertive and probably overly aggressive tone the woman promised me that she would have the package turned around before it arrived in San Francisco and she would make sure it was shipped overnight to me by Thursday.  

Wednesday morning when I woke up, however, I saw that the shipment travel history was now showing that the package had arrived in South San Francisco - 15 minutes south of San Francisco.  So it wasn't exactly stopped and turned around on a dime.  Furthermore, I wasn't feeling very confident that any of the post-it notes aimlessly floating around the country had actually ended up in the appropriate hands, so I planned to call that afternoon to figure out what I could do, short of driving to San Francisco myself to pick it up.  To my surprise, however, I received a phone call while I was in class and the message said that the package had, indeed arrived locally and it would be at my door by noon on Thursday.

So, here we are, it is 1:47 PM on Thursday and there is no package here.  The package, as I found out a little less than an hour ago, is still in San Francisco.  


One customer service rep hung up on me today after getting too confused by my lineup of tough questions like "Where is my package?" and "When will it get here?", I had another one tell me that I had no right to be upset with them and finally I spoke directly to the guy who left me the message yesterday.  What was his excuse?  Well, he never said where it arrived locally in his message for me, he just told me that it had arrived locally, which could have been anywhere.  He further explained that he was a little confused yesterday because he was certain that my package was bound for San Francisco.  Eventually he explained to me that the package now has the correct address on it, is headed to Illinois and will be in my possession by 3:00 PM tomorrow afternoon.  Anyone want to bet?

I was also given a new tracking number this afternoon, which I am about to plug in and see what happens...

...Well, that's kind of hilarious, an issue I had nearly forgotten about popped up with the new tracking number.  Before the beer arrived in the Chicago area last week the package supposedly weighed 29 pounds.  After it left it was showing only 20 lbs.  Now, it is not showing where it is, but it is showing that shipping information has been sent to FedEx and that the package now weighs 30 lbs.  So, again, who knows?

Oddly, my prediction here is that it will actually arrive tomorrow afternoon, but I think there's a 20% or so chance that it is simply not my package.  Anyway, I would love to hear your predictions as well in the comments section and I will be certain to follow up with an update tomorrow afternoon.

Cheers!  And if you enjoyed the site, follow me on Twitter for the latest 20 Beers in 20 Nights updates.  Hopefully, sometime very soon, I will finally be able to review the Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What is an American Double/Imperial India Pale Ale?

Posted by: Stonecipher

Feb. 21, 2011

When I began writing this blog the goal was simply to review the Top 20 Most Reviewed Double/Imperial IPAs on Beer Advocate.  Now that we are 25% of the way through The List, it has occurred to me that I have never truly explained what a Double/Imperial IPA actually is.  Many people who read the blog will probably already know, but just in case you don’t, or if you just want a refresher, I thought it would only be appropriate for us here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights to address the issue: 

Thanks to Azurescens on Beer Advocate for the photo.
What is an American Double/Imperial IPA (DIPA or IIPA)?

Yes, technically, the style is referred to as an American Double or Imperial India Pale Ale, but you generally won’t hear anyone mention a Belgian Double IPA or an English Imperial IPA.  The double IPA was developed on the West Coast of the United States about 20 years ago.  Before diving into what the DIPA is, however, it may be worthwhile to explore what a regular IPA or India Pale Ale is. 

Legend has it that the original India Pale Ales were brewed in England to deliver to the troops serving in India.  Hops are a natural preservative and therefore, a beer with more hops had a better chance of surviving the long trip around the African Continent.  Beer Advocate tells the story of the English IPA well:

First brewed in England and exported for the British troops in India during the late 1700s. To withstand the voyage, IPA's were basically tweaked Pale Ales that were, in comparison, much more malty, boasted a higher alcohol content and were well-hopped, as hops are a natural preservative. Historians believe that an IPA was then watered down for the troops, while officers and the elite would savor the beer at full strength. The English IPA has a lower alcohol due to taxation over the decades. The leaner the brew the less amount of malt there is and less need for a strong hop presence which would easily put the brew out of balance. Some brewers have tried to recreate the origianl IPA with strengths close to 8-9% abv.

Although the recreations of some of these original English IPAs have had a fairly high ABV, the typical English IPA now ranges from about 4.0 – 6.5% ABV.  And that brings us to the American version of the IPA – a stronger, more flavorful beer with a significantly higher range of alcohol by volume – roughly 5.5 – 7.5%.
The American IPA has been around, by some accounts since 1900 and those early IPAs were similar in style, smell and flavor to their English counterparts.  In more recent years, as microbreweries and homebrewing have become more popular the style has exploded in popularity here in the U.S.  Many Americans, sick of light lagers that lack flavor, body, aroma and intensity have turned to India Pale Ale.  Again, Beer Advocate says it better than I do: 

The American IPA is a different soul from the reincarnated IPA style. More flavorful than the withering English IPA, color can range from very pale golden to reddish amber. Hops are typically American with a big herbal and / or citric character, bitterness is high as well. Moderate to medium bodied with a balancing malt backbone.

There are literally thousands of IPAs now commercially available in the United States.  Most breweries and brewpubs will have at least one example of an IPA and many have more.  Some of my favorites, in no particular order, include Ska’s Modus Hoperandi, Lagunitas IPA, Ithaca’s Flower Power IPA, Founders Centennial IPA and Two Brothers Resistance IPA

What I love about these beers is their strong flavor.  Just like my love of blue cheese, sharp cheddar, spicy foods and whiskey, I seek out flavors that push my palate to the limit, so the intense, hoppy bitterness that an IPA provides keeps me satisfied in terms of beer.

To truly push my palate to the limit, however, I have sought out some of the most hoppy and most intense IPAs out there and that is what led me to the Double IPA.

Now, I am not going to get into the controversial subject of who invented the Double IPA.  There are several different stories behind it, but it is generally agreed that it happened somewhere in California or Oregon sometime between 1990 and 1995.    

What makes it a double?   Well, in many cases 50% more malt is used than in a standard IPA and 100% more hops are used to balance the extra malt out.  This leads to a very intensely flavored and aromatic beer that has somewhere between 70 and 100 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).  100 IBUs is basically the high end of the bitterness spectrum of beer and the average, regular IPA (a bitter beer to begin with) has a range of about 40 – 60 IBUs.  Some people claim that once a beer gets above 100 it is nearly impossible to taste any difference.  That said, the extra malt used in the DIPA process often leads to a high IBU beer that tastes more sweet than bitter.  Bell’s Hopslam is a perfect example of this (I suppose the honey they put in it helps as well) and even some of the least adventurous beer drinkers can put down a full Hopslam despite the fact that it has at least 70 IBUs.

Anyhow, let’s take a look at what Beer Advocate has to say about the issue:

Take an India Pale Ale and feed it steroids, ergo the term Double IPA. Although open to the same interpretation as its sister styles, you should expect something robust, malty, alcoholic and with a hop profile that might rip your tongue out. The Imperial usage comes from Russian Imperial stout, a style of strong stout originally brewed in England for the Russian Imperial Court of the late 1700s; though Double IPA is often the preferred name.

An IPA on steroids is a fantastic description and happens to be the reason I love these beers.  The American Double India Pale Ale pushes my palate and taste buds to the limit (and sometimes even pushes them over the edge) and DIPAs just so happen to pair very well with many of my favorite foods that I mentioned above.  Strong cheeses, spicy food, barbeque and grilled meat all pair very well with Double IPAs.  I will warn you, however, the spicy food/bitter beer combo can rip your taste buds right out before you even finish your meal or your first beer.  Some good, hot Mexican food paired with a strong and bitter Double IPA may be amazing for the first few bites, but it also may end up nearly impossible to taste any of it by the end, no matter how intense the flavors are.

So, I hope that if you already knew some of this stuff that it was at least an enjoyable read and that if you didn’t already have a grasp on it, that now you do.  The Double IPA is my favorite style of beer and I truly believe that as I work my way through The List here on 20 Beers in 20 Nights I will be working my way through a collection of some of the best beers the world has to offer.  In case you want to know what my favorites within the style are, well, just keep reading and eventually I’ll get to them – even the ones that are not on The List will make guest appearances at some point. 

Thanks for stopping by, and by the way, if you’re on Twitter you can follow 20 Beers in 20 Nights at:!/20Beers20Nights

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Updated List - 5 Down, 15 To Go

Posted by: Stonecipher

Feb. 18, 2011

Our first project here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights, which we are currently working on, is to review the Top 20 most reviewed American Double/Imperial IPAs according to Beer Advocate.  When I first came up with the idea for the blog back in November, The List looked like this:

1.   90 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head
2.   Stone Ruination - Stone Brewing
3.   Bell's Hopslam - Bell's Brewery
4.   Pliny the Elder - Russian River (Will need some help finding this one for sure)
5.   Hop Wallup - Victory
6.   120 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head
7.   Maharaja - Avery Brewing
8.   Dreadnaught IPA - Three Floyds
9.   Hercules Double IPA - Great Divide
10. Hop Stoopid - Lagunitas
11. Burton Baton - Dogfish Head
12. Double Simcoe IPA - Weyerbacher Brewing
13. Maximus - Lagunitas
14. Gordon Ale - Oskar Blues
15. Unearthly - Southern Tier
16. Founders Devil Dancer - Founders
17. YuleSmith (Summer) - AleSmith
18. Double Dog Double Pale Ale - Flying Dog
19. Hopsickle Imperial IPA - Moylan's Brewery
20. Founder's Double Trouble - Founders

Of course, a few beers have switched places now that we're in the month of February, but none have fallen out of the Top 20.  I haven't decided what to do if that happens, but the good news there is that only two other beers are really within striking distance and both seem to be a long shot at this point.

In addition to a few beers changing places, 25% of them have now been reviewed and therefore can be crossed off.  Also, the Gordon Ale by Oskar Blues has been forced to change its name for legal reasons to G'Knight Imperial Red Ale.  So, here is what the new list looks like to reflect cross-offs, position changes and the one name change:

1.   90 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head
2.   Stone Ruination - Stone Brewing
3.   Bell's Hopslam - Bell's Brewery
4.   Pliny the Elder - Russian River (Will need some help finding this one for sure)
5.   Hop Wallup - Victory
6.   120 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head
7.   Maharaja - Avery Brewing
8.   Hop Stoopid - Lagunitas
9.   Dreadnaught IPA - Three Floyds
10. Hercules Double IPA - Great Divide
11. Burton Baton - Dogfish Head
12. Double Simcoe IPA - Weyerbacher Brewing
13. Maximus - Lagunitas
14. G'Knight Imperial Red Ale - Oskar Blues
15. Unearthly - Southern Tier
16. Founders Double Trouble - Founders
17. Founders Devil Dancer - Founders
18. Double Dog Double Pale Ale - Flying Dog
19. YuleSmith (Summer) - AleSmith 
20. Hopsickle Imperial IPA - Moylan's Brewery

So there you have it, 5 down, 15 to go.  It's been fun so far!

UPDATE: 8 down, 12 to go.  Pliny might happen this week!

UPDATE 2 - 3/27/2011: 9 down, 11 to go.  The Pliny has been reviewed, finally!  Found it at Poppy's Pizza in Estes Park, Colorado.  It will be an excellent beer to review for the half way point on The List.

The Mystery of the Missing Burton Baton – A Short (and True) Story About the Three Beers I Didn’t Get to Drink this Week.

Posted by: Stonecipher

Feb. 18, 2011

It has been a tough week here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  If all had gone well, we would have had three more of the Top 20 DIPAs reviewed and checked off the list, bringing us close to the halfway point.  Instead, the beer universe was against us and we are still stuck at #5.

I’ll begin with the worst news of all – the beer that went MIA and is now presumed dead.  As some of you may have read, we were in Nashville, TN over the past weekend.  While we were there we actually began the trip with a bit of good beer luck when we found some Oskar Blues Gordon Ale, one of the Top 20 that is not readily available here in Illinois.  That, however, is where our luck ended. 

When we got back from the bar that night we decided to throw the one bottle of beer that we had brought with us in the hotel room’s refrigerator.  That bottle was a Dogfish Head Burton Baton, which comes in at #11 on The List with 1,176 reviews.  The plan was to take advantage of some of the downtime I was hoping to have to review it and cross it off the list.  Unfortunately, I never ended up having too much downtime in the hotel room.  So, I never got around to it.

When we arrived back in Evanston on Monday, I asked my girlfriend where the beer was.  She thought it was in one of our bags.  Turns out it wasn’t.  I thought maybe I had left it in her refrigerator.  Turns out I had not.  Then she suggested maybe it was in my fridge.  Nope.  The trunk of the car?  No dice.  Was it rolling around in the back seat?  Negative.  We could just not figure out where it had vanished to. 

Finally, last night, while sitting at one of our local hangouts and sampling a few of Goose Island’s high-end sours, it hit me.  I turned to my girlfriend and said “I know where the beer is.”

“Where!?!” She replied.

“It’s in the hotel fridge.” 

And with that, the mystery of the missing Burton Baton was solved.

Of course, the Burton Baton would have been Beer #6 on The List, but what about the other two, #7 and #8?  Well, number seven, was supposed to have been the Weyerbacher Double Simcoe.  Many of you read about that last week.  Due to some minor technical difficulties, however, it looks like the Double Simcoe may not arrive until sometime this weekend… if I am lucky.  By the way, none of this was the fault of my trading partner; it was the middle man who totally dropped the ball on this one.  Said middle man has promised to straighten things out quickly, but we shall see.  Hopefully, there is a swift and happy conclusion to this story.
As for number eight, well, this one was simply a case of false advertising.  OK, maybe not false, but at the very least it was lazy advertising. 

Two nights ago, we planned to take my mother and my aunt to see Les Mis in the City.  On the way we picked out a nice restaurant called Erwin on Chicago’s North Side.  After picking it out I went on line to see if they had much of a beer list.  I was not very hopeful, but I figured there would at least be a standard Goose Island brew or two and maybe another craft selection.  As it turned out though, their beer selection was very impressive, I would even say inspired.  Of the 17 available bottles, only Amstel Light and Kaliber Non-Alcohol were non-craft selections.  If you click here and scroll down you can see just how impressive it is – Lagunitas, Two Brothers, Left Hand, even Ska! 

Sure enough, the Avery Maharaja was listed as well, and in fact, still is.  Shortly after we arrived, however, the waiter informed us that they have not had any in stock in quite some time.  I should have known better, Maharaja is not an easy beer to find and it is only brewed a few times a year (I believe three), but still, it was heartbreaking.  Plus, in all fairness, I probably would not have reviewed a beer in that setting, but still, I thought I was going to have a crack at a rare treat.  So Erwin, I appreciate the amazing salmon we had, the delicious burger I tried and whatever that delicious bean spread was that came out with the bread before the meal, but please do me a favor and take the Maharaja off of your online beer list.  Or, wait, better yet, get some Maharaja and let me know when you do so that I can come back.

The good news from all of this is that it shouldn’t take too long to get all of these beers back into my possession and reviewed.  Dogfish Head is distributed here in Chicago, so even though the Burton Baton is a tough find, I’m sure I can track it down.  Avery is also distributed here, but even if it continues to hide from me in Illinois, I will be in Boulder in late March and I will be sure to stop at the brewery then.  As for the Double Simcoe, well, it could show up any time between now and Wednesday and if not, well, I’ll have another topic for a blog post. 

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and remember, just say no to Bud, Miller-Coors.  Say yes to good, American craft beer!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review #5 - From Nashville - Oskar Blues Gordon Ale (a.k.a. G'Knight)

Posted by: Stonecipher

Feb. 11, 2011

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the girlfriend and I are in Nashville, Tennessee this weekend.  So far, I have to say, I am fairly impressed with the beer culture down here.  That said, we are primarily hanging out around the Vanderbilt campus and it is fairly reasonable to assume that a more educated crowd is more likely to be into craft beer.

The highlight up to this point has been our stop at the 12 South Taproom which we found on Beer Advocate on the drive down.  I had a good feeling about it after reading just a few reviews and I am so glad we went.  We had an excellent time, were treated like regulars, had some delicious food, listened to some very funky, live blues and most important to the blog…I found Oskar Blues Gordon Ale!  And no, I didn’t just find G’Knight, I found the old Gordon Ale can, which may be pretty tough to find from here on out (more on that in a future post).

The G’Knight/Gordon Ale was previously one of the four that I thought I would for sure have to trade for.  So when I saw it sitting in the cooler at 12 South I was pumped. 

I have to say, I was impressed, and I enjoyed it, but I was not quite as impressed as I thought I would be.  I actually ended up liking the Oskar’s Gubna Double IPA more.  Before the review though, here are some facts about Oskar Blues Gordon Ale:

ABV: 8.7%
IBUs: 60
Brewery Location: Lyons, Colorado
Style: American Double IPA
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.12 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.95 – Very Good
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 941/14th
Brewery Description: Oskar Blues Gordon Ale
Bottled On: NA

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) - The picture I took won’t do it much justice, despite being in a fairly well-lit bar, I just couldn’t get that super-premium, quality camera on the iPhone to take a decent picture.  So, if I pick up a sixer or something on the way out of Tennessee, I’ll try to post one.  For now, you can just use your imagination. 

OK, back to the task at hand – the appearance of the Gordon Ale.  As you can see, it did not completely fill up the stemless snifter I was given to pour it into and that gave me the freedom to pour a little more aggressively than normal.  The pour created a gorgeous, clean white head, which rested on top of a deep reddish brown colored beer.  The only problem with the head (and the only reason I did not give OBGA a 5 out of 5 in appearance) was that it did not lead to very much lacing.  Gordon Ale is a very pretty beer.

SMELL: (3.0 out of 5) – The nose was the only category in which the Oskar Blues Gordon Ale did not impress me.  What was detectable was appetizing, but the sweet and malty aromas just did not come through without a lot of effort.  At one point I had my nose so far in the glass that the tip of it got wet. 

TASTE: (4.0 out of 5) – Wow!  The first sip of the Gordon Ale is a malt bomb.  The flavor is certainly what sets this beer apart and makes it one of the most unique that I have tried on The List so far.  I imagine none of the other DIPAs I try for the blog will taste anything like this.  While the malt is the star of the show, and its sweetness remains throughout the entire sip, a little bite of bitterness creeps in towards the end just as the malt is beginning to fade.  The malty flavor sticks around for the aftertaste, but a touch of hoppiness joins it.

MOUTHFEEL: (4.5 out of 5) – I loved the mouthfeel of the Gordon Ale.  It was intensely sparkling and palate scraping, but the sweetness allowed it to be enjoyed throughout the whole can.  In fact, I’m sure I could have had another one and would have been fine.  It was almost as if the sparkle simulated the ripping away of my taste buds, while a contrasting sweet, stickiness worked to keep them all intact.  Overall, it had an amazing mouthfeel.

OVERALL: (4.0 out of 5) – I have had the pleasure of tasting Oskar Blues before, but only once or twice and neither time was it the Gordon Ale.  I have heard a lot about it, but was never able to track it down.  I am very happy I found it at the 12 South Taproom though.  It was a pleasant, unique and very good beer.  Although the beer is not supposed to change at all, I am still really glad I got to try a can before the name changes to G’Knight.  I do have to say though, as much as this beer has been hyped, I was slightly disappointed.  It is good, it is served in a can (maybe the only can on The List), but its brother, Gubna DIPA, also from Oskar Blues, edged it out in almost every category. 

SOUND: Whatever the funky, jazzy blues being played in the 12 South Taproom, that’s what this beer sounded like.  The blues seemed to be the perfect match for drinking Oskar Blues.

DRAWBACKS: The lack of much nose was a turn off to me.  From my experience strong, red ales usually have a very hoppy smell, and since the Gordon Ale highlighted the malt more than the hops, maybe that had something to do with the lack of aroma.  Otherwise, it was a well crafted beer that deserves to be recognized for its uniqueness within the style, but again, it was overhyped.  I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I wasn’t expecting the best beer ever before I tried it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Big Find in Nashville, Tennessee

Posted by: Stonecipher

Feb. 11, 2011

It's a balmy 39 degrees out...and that is pretty spectacular given that when I left Chicago yesterday it was about 3.  So what is this tropical paradise?  Those of you sharp enough to read the headline have probably already figured out its Nashville, TN.  The woman and I took the weekend off to head south for a bit and we arrived late last night (after a stop at Three Floyds in Munster, IN which will be reviewed later).

Our first stop after checking in to the hotel was the 12 South Taproom.  After reading a dozen or so reviews of various beer bars on Beer Advocate on the way down I had a good feeling about the they had an excellent beer list that included one of the beers on The List, that is not available in Chicago - I was just hoping they still had a can of it left when I got there.

It turns out that it was not only a great choice, but they also had a can of Oskar Blues' Gordon Knight Ale.  Actually, it has recently been renamed G'Knight Ale for legal reasons, which I hope to explore here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights sometime soon.

Anyway, we'll get to the review sometime very soon.  For now, I just wanted to post something and let you know to keep checking back for the next update.  I'm very excited to have tracked down a can of Gordon Ale without having to do a trade.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe Trade

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau
Feb. 8, 2011

***UPDATE*** After a few weeks of struggle, the Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA has finally arrived, check out the review here.***UPDATE***
Since we began reviewing beers here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights Worldwide Headquarters in Evanston, IL a few weeks ago, we’ve been picking some low hanging fruit.  Sure Hopslam is not a particularly common or easy to find beer all the time, but here in Chicago, it is not a problem to find it when it is released. 
Well, after four reviews (and with number five already in the pipeline) it is time to get serious about finding a few of the beers on The List that are not readily available.  So, I headed over to Beer Advocate to find some trading partners and I came across a user named nevins (funny coincidence of a name for those of you who know me) who was able to get his hands on beer #12 on The List – Weyerbacher Brewing Company’s Double Simcoe IPA.  Additionally, and what I originally got in on the trade for, he’ll be sending along a six pack of one of my all-time favorite IPAs – Ithaca Beer Company's Flower Power and a couple of Ithaca’s limited releases.  What I sent back to him in return is pictured on the right.  If you can't see, it's a six-pack of Bell's Hopslam, a couple bombers of Three Floyds Dreadnaught DIPA and a bomber of Three Floyds Behemoth, which I have yet to try, but will do so soon.  
Not a bad haul for either of us.
Anyhow, the Double Simcoe currently has a Beer Advocate rating of A-/4.16 and 994 BA members have reviewed it.  It has a 9% ABV and it is named after the hops in it – 100% Simcoe Hops, a variety that was created in 2000 out on the West Coast known for its piney taste and bitterness.
I'm looking forward to the whole lot from nevins and to writing the review!  Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thunder Snow Night = Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale Review

When the winter weather is miserable, most people get snow days, but as a bartender, on Tuesday I got a snow night – and to top it off, it was no ordinary snow night, it was a thunder snow night!  I figured a thunder snow night would be the perfect time to review Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial IPA.  As was the case with my review of FFF Dreadnaught and with Great Divide’s Hercules, I had tasted this beer in the past, but I did not do a proper review.

The first time I tried the Hopsickle, I split a 22oz. bomber with my roommate and my girlfriend and it was very good.  This time, however, I made an effort drink the entire bottle and my results were drastically different.  Maybe this was a beer built for sharing, either way; here are some quick facts about the Moylan’s Hopsickle:

ABV: 9.2%
IBUs: 100+
Brewery Location: Novato, California
Style: American Double IPA
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.14 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: C-/2.7 – Not Worthy
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 782/20th
Brewery Description: Moylan’s Brewery
Bottled On: No date on Moylan’s

APPEARANCE:  What first struck me about the Moylan’s Hopickle Imperial Ale was its haziness; it was a very cloudy and opaque orange color.  My pour was fairly aggressive, but it did not produce much of a head – just an eighth of an in or so and it settled down right away.  Head retention is not Hopsickle’s strength.

SMELL:  Just like the look, orange was the most noticeable characteristic of the nose.  It dominates the aromas as hops and other citrus flavors linger in the background. 

TASTE: The Hopsickle is a distinct departure from the previous DIPAs I’ve reviewed here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  Rather than the usual sweetness, this one is all about the hoppy bitterness.  There is some balance early in the sip, when the beer hits the tongue a mild malt flavor is present before giving way to a wave of orange that lasts until the hop bomb explodes.  It is about half way through the sip that the orange flavor suddenly disappears and a tongue-ripping bitterness assaults the palate.  The assault is just straight-forward, bitter hops and lasts all the way through to the aftertaste.  As the beer goes down it seems to be taking taste buds with it. 

MOUTHFEEL:  As I mentioned above, the Moylan’s Hopsickle seems to be ripping the taste buds out as it goes down.  It is extraordinarily dry on the back end and it leaves the palate begging for something to quench its thirst.  After cycling through from the back end of one sip to the back end of another a few times water needed to be introduced to the equation, at least in my case it did.

OVERALL:  This is the perfect illustration of why one needs to finish an entire serving of beer when it is being reviewed.  That first experience I had with Hopsickle was completely different than the last one.  The hop explosion I experienced in the seven ounce pour was fantastic, just like the first third or so of this particular bottle.  After that, however, it just went too far for my taste.  I genuinely appreciate a brewery making an effort to satisfy the true, bitter, hop craving of many DIPA fans out there, but when the second half of the beer cannot be tasted, it ceases to make sense. 

DRAWBACKS:  I feel that I’ve already been fairly tough on Moylan’s for this one, so rather than rehashing what I didn’t like about the beer I will simply recommend that you split a bomber with a friend or two.  It is certainly worth trying and who knows, some people may like to have their taste buds ripped to pieces, I know I like to have mine pushed to the limits.  To sum it up though, like Hunter S. Thompson said “The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”  Well, the Hopsickle has taught me where the edge of my hop tolerance is, something I never really thought I would figure out.

SOUND:  This beer brought to mind my college days when I was a DJ on our campus station and I was deeply involved in the college music scene.  The Hopsickle is one of those bands/songs that all the cool kids know, and are supposed to love, but in reality isn’t that pleasant to listen to.  You can respect the effort, musical talent and complex production that went into the song, but sometimes complexity doesn’t equal beautiful.

Just to provide a little balance here at the end of this piece, I do have to say that many of the other beers I have tried from Moylan’s are outstanding.  Don’t let this piece discourage you from checking picking up a bomber or two from Novato sometime.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review #3 - Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

Posted by: Stonecipher
Jan. 31, 2011

Last night I was very happy to be sitting down with a large glass of beer after racking my brain all day with class and work.  Like the Dreadnaught, I have tried Great Divide’s Hercules Double IPA in the past, but I did not review it.  I remember enjoying it, but I was also eating at one of my very favorite restaurants in Chicago, Bad Apple on Lincoln, just kitty corner from the Half Acre Beer Company – home of Daisy Cutter Pale Ale.  It’s always tough to tell if the burgers or the beer is better there, the selection of both is phenomenal, but I digress. 
Here are some basics for the Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
ABV: 10%
IBUs: 85
Brewery Location: Denver, Colorado
Style: American Double IPA
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.2 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.9 – Very Good
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 1,184/10th
Brewery Description: Great Divide Brewing Company
Bottled On: July 1, 2011

By the way, you’ll notice the Avery Brewing Company glass, a Colorado glass for a Colorado beer.  Haven’t been to the Great Divide Brewery yet, but may be making the trip when I’m in Denver and Boulder in March.  That also may have to be the time I review Avery’s Maharaja – One of my all-time favorites that just so happens to be in the Top 20.

So, with the weather getting increasingly worse here in the Chicago Area, I sat down last night to sample the Great Divide Hercules Double IPA and here’s what I found:

APPEARANCE:  Poured a hazy, medium copper into the Avery pint glass.  A decent looking, fluffy white head dissipated rather quickly.  The Hercules is a good looking beer, but there is nothing particularly notable about the appearance.  One thing that was interesting is that this beer did break the streak of my Double IPAs only lacing on the left and right sides of the glass.  The Hercules had a more typical lacing pattern, with big thin rings lining the opposite side of the glass from top to bottom. 

SMELL:  The first word that came to mind when I sniffed the Hercules was intense.  And that’s just the way I like my beers.  The strong, piney hop smell steals the show, but there are also hints of grassy and citrus aromas.  Great Divide certainly knows how to create an appetite and excitement for a hop head.

TASTE:  The first sip was a little bit of a letdown.  I was expecting a bitter hop bomb, but instead tasted more sweet malt flavors.  That wasn’t a terrible thing, just unexpected.  As the beer began to warm, however, the bitter hoppy flavor became more apparent and the sweetness was relegated to the background as a balancing agent.  Hints of citrus, mostly lemon, came through at the tail end of the sip as the bitterness emerged for the aftertaste.

MOUTHFEEL:  If I remember correctly it was Barq’s whose motto was “Barq’s has Bite”.  Well, Hercules has bite, particularly if you hold it on the tongue for a couple of seconds.  The carbonations digs into the tongue, but strangely the rest of the palate seems to get more of a pleasant mouth coating sensation at the same time.  This combination seems to be responsible for making the aftertaste exceptionally strong, an unusual, but excellent feel. 

OVERALL:  This is a somewhat erratic and funky beer.  In my last review I described the Three Floyds Dreadnaught as a roller coaster ride, and the Hercules is the same in some ways, except that the roller coaster is old, rattling and extremely shaky.  For the roller coaster connoisseur, my guess is that the rattle and shake might add to the excitement, but for a rookie, it might be terrifying.  I thoroughly enjoyed this beer, but I can see how it would frighten some light beer drinkers away in a hurry. 

DRAWBACKS:  Once again, the roller coast ride was both a plus and a minus.  The Hercules is a very complex beer and with complexity comes a variety of tastes, smells and feels.  The likelihood that one beer drinker will love all of these is fairly low, so as the odds would have it, there were a few characteristics that didn’t quite do it for me.  One was the appearance.  I do believe appearance is the toughest category to screw up (I mean how often do you look at a beer and say to yourself “Well, I just don’t want to drink that”?), but the Hercules did leave something to be desired as far as its appearance went.  Additionally, the early sips were too sweet for me.  I understand the need to balance the hops out with some malt, but it took longer than I wanted for the correct balance to appear. 

SOUND:  This was a tough one, but I have to go with Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew”.  What can be grating and, well, downright scary to the untrained ear can also be a thing of beauty to a jazz aficionado.  The Hercules is going to be a classic that must be respected, but may not be fully enjoyed or appreciated by everyone, just like Miles in 1970.