Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An AleSmith YuleSmith Video Review

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Aug. 31, 2011

I am getting a kick out of watching some of these video beer reviews and comparing them to my reviews here on the site and I thought you might as well.  So below is a nice review of AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) from a guy in San Diego, CA and here is my review of it

We both agreed on the final A+ grade, it really is a terrific DIPA, but we didn't agree completely on the smell.

I might have one last bottle or two coming sometime soon and I really hope it happens so I don't have to wait until next summer to grab another.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The DIPA Project Awards and Final Rankings (Part 2)

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Aug. 30, 2011

In case you missed Part 1 of this here it is.  Yesterday we covered the rankings, but how about the awards?  Yes, the DIPA Awards!  If you don't know what we're talking about yet, click that link in the line above and get up to speed.  If you do know what we're doing here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights then let's dive right in.

Best Overall Beer: AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) - 8.5% ABV, 100 IBUs, San Diego, California 

This was maybe the biggest surprise of the entire project for me.  It was the last beer I reviewed and also the least reviewed beer on Beer Advocate out of the Top 20.  I was expecting to like it, but not as much as I did.  The taste was astounding, but the whole package was really great - particularly the appearance, which I will discuss in greater depth below.  Congrats to AleSmith on this beer - going into this project I expected Bell's Hopslam, Avery Maharaja or Pliny the Elder to take the cake, but AleSmith managed to top all of those outstanding breweries and beers with their annual 4th of July celebration beer.

Worst Overall Beer: Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale - 9.2%, 100+ IBUs, Novato, CA

I have nothing against Moylan's and, in fact, I loved their Barleywine and every other beer I've had of theirs.  The Imperial India Pale Ale just missed the mark in my opinion.  The beer lacked any balance, which is necessary with a beer that is as hopped up as a DIPA.  It also seemed as though there was no consideration for how this beer would feel.  It could have been saved if the mouthfeel weren't so abrasive.  I needed a glass of water to help wash it down - that is not a good sign.

Best Tasting Beer: Bell's Hopslam - 10%, 69-136 IBUs, Kalamazoo, Michigan

This was an extremely difficult decision, I gave the 5 out of 5 rating (in the taste category) to four beers on the list, YuleSmith, Ruination, Maharaja and the Hopslam.  Any one of them at any given time with any given batch of beer could probably take the cake in this category, but after having my fair share of Hopslam both on tap and in the bottle I have to say that Bell's wins this category by a hair with the consistency shown in this savior from early winter.  It may be the best tasting beer on the planet.

Best Looking Beer - AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) - 8.5% ABV, 100 IBUs, San Diego, California

This is one of the few categories that was a no-brainer.  The color was absolutely gorgeous, the packaging is very appetizing and good looking and the head never fully dissipated throughout the entire pint.  This was the most amazing feat in head retention I have ever seen.  The only other times I have still had a solid layer of head at the bottom of the glass were the times that I had a beer completely foam up on me during the pour.  This was not the case with the YuleSmith, the head was thick after the pour, but not abnormally so.  It was just an all around pretty beer.

Most Overpriced Beer: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - 18% ABV, 120 IBUs, Milton, Delaware

Was I happy that I was one of the lucky few who got my hands on a couple of bottles of this year's 120 minute IPA?  Yes.  Was I happy to pay $19 for the bottle at a bar?  No.  Of course with an ABV as high as this and with the time and effort that went into creating this beer I understand the cost.  That said, I do not think the quality of the beer matched the cost.

Best Smelling Beer: Russian River Pliny the Elder - 8% ABV, 100 IBUs, Santa Rosa, California

The only other beer that came close to this one on the list was Founders Devil Dancer.  Otherwise, this was a runaway winner in the category.  As I mentioned in my review, when I first tried this beer I kept my nose in the glass for five minutes before taking my first sip because it smelled like "delicious, hoppy, magical flowers."  While overall, Pliny didn't come through as the experience it was hyped up to be, the smell alone was worth the hunt.  And now that I am living in Colorado, with just a little effort I can track this smell down again.

Best Feeling Beer: Founders Double Trouble - 9.4% ABV, 86 IBUs, Grand Rapids, Michigan

This was another runaway winner.  The Double Trouble was the only beer on The List that I gave a 5 out of 5 to in the mouthfeel department.  The light, flirty carbonation added so much to this already remarkably tasting beer that I no choice other than to dole out a perfect score in the category.  It does not get any better.  On a separate note, I didn't explicitly mention this in the review, but had the color and the lacing been just a shade stronger I would have ranked this one right up there with my favorites and given it an A+.  It's only real drawback is that it sort of looks like a light lager and the head/lacing isn't too impressive.

Best Beer/Music Pairing - Avery Maharaja - 10.54% ABV, 102 IBUs, Boulder, Colorado

You will probably not find this type of award anywhere else, however, throughout the process of reviewing the Top 20 most popular DIPAs on Beer Advocate I tried to match each beer up to a complimentary piece of music.  Some didn't really have a good pairing, while others were obvious right away.  The Founders Devil Dancer was, again, a close second in this category with a fairly obvious "Friend of the Devil" pairing, but Avery came out on top.  The obscure Donald Byrd track that happened upon my ears while I was writing the Maharaja review was called "Cristo Redento" and served to add greatly to my experience.  Oddly enough, although I was surprised by YuleSmith's last minute, come from behind victory to take the best overall and best taste categories, as I went back and reread my Maharaja review I noticed that I predicted that it was the only beer that could possibly knock off Maharaja for the best tasting.  Funny.

And with that, I believe the DIPA Project is officially over.  I intend to begin a new one very soon, but I am currently having a difficult time deciding on another set of 20 beers to write about.  If you have suggestions feel free to make them.  I also may take on more than one project at a time, depending on how much time I have, so feel free to make any suggestions even after I begin the next one.

A big thank you to everyone who has read and helped out with this project in any way.  To the readers, thanks a ton for stopping by and motivating me to keep writing.  To r/beer and Beer Advocate, thank you so much for providing me insight, thoughts, help and a good argument or two - a particular thanks to BAers ren and nevins for working out trades with me for YuleSmith and Double Simcoe respectively.  Thanks to my brother-in-law Dan (And Happy Birthday Buddy!) for talking DIPAs with me on a regular basis and helping me track down Devil Dancer.  Thanks to Kyle and Phil at Prairie Moon in Evanston who served me many of the beers on this list over the past year.  Thanks to Carlos at Fischman's in Chicago for holding onto that 4-pack of Devil Dancer for me.  Finally, thanks to Emily, my wonderful girlfriend for traveling all over the country with me this past year as we searched for schools and great beer.  It would not have been anywhere near as fun without you.  I'm probably missing someone, and if I am, I'll update this post.  Until next time, stay tuned and Cheers!

A Video Review of Founders Double Trouble

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Aug. 30, 2011

While browsing around and reading about beer I came across a decent video review of Founders Double Trouble.  I just found it interesting to compare my notes to those of the guy in the video below.  We had some very similar thoughts on it with the exception of the nose.  He smelled a lot of pine, whereas I got almost all citrus - which is exactly what I usually get from this fabulous beer.  Interestingly, though, we both agreed on and noted the lack of malt notes in the nose.

Anyhow, watching this video makes me want a Double Trouble right now!  Too bad we have to wait until the winter rolls around again.  Hope you all find this as interesting as I do:

P.S. Thanks to hophedbrewhouse for the video review.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The DIPA Project Awards and Final Rankings (Part 1)

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Aug. 22, 2011

As some of you who follow the blog already know I have just completed Project #1 - The DIPA Project.  The goal of the DIPA Project was to taste and review the Top 20 Most Reviewed American Double/Imperial IPAs on Beer Advocate - in other words, the 20 most popular Double IPAs in the country.

As you might imagine, drinking 20 world-class beers was a lot of fun, but what surprised me most was how much I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt.  It was a blast tracking down some of the harder to find beers and then to finally cross them off the list was very satisfying.  With a sharp focus on a particular style of beer, I also had the opportunity to learn a ton about this popular beer style.  Some of that I'll discuss here in this post, but what I'm sure you'll all find more interesting is how they all stack up.

Let's start with how the list looks on Beer Advocate today.  The rankings here have nothing to do with quality, just quantity - more specifically, the number of times they have been reviewed on Beer Advocate's website.  As you'll notice, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA holds the top spot with over 3,000 reviews.

Now, if we rank these same beers according to their quality, measured by their BA average review scores (1 is the lowest possible, 5 is the highest possible), here's what we comes up with:

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder - 4.59/A+
2. Bell's Hopslam - 4.43/A
3. Three Floyd's Dreadnaught - 4.39/A
4. Stone Ruination IPA - 4.29/A
5. AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) - 4.29/A
6. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - 4.25/A-
7. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA - 4.2/A-
8. Avery Maharaja - 4.18/A-
9. Lagunitas Hop Stoopid - 4.18/A-
10. Founders Double Trouble - 4.17/A-
11. Dogfish Head Burton Baton - 4.16/A-
12. Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale - 4.16/A-
13. Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA - 4.13/A-
14. Southern Tier Unearthly (Imperial IPA) - 4.13/A-
15. Oskar Blues G'Knight/Gordon Ale - 4.12/A-
16. Victory Hop Wallop - 4.06/A-
17. Founders Devil Dancer - 4.01/A-
18. Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale - 4/B+
19. Lagunitas Maximus - 3.91/B+
20. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - 3.86/B+

The average Beer Advocate score for these 20 beers is 4.1735, or an A-, which also happens to be the grade most often given by the BA community to beers on this list - 12 times.  Interestingly, the three beers that were highest in Alcohol Content (Alcohol By Volume - ABV) occupied three of the bottom four spots on the list. Dogfish 120 ranked highest in ABV at 18%, but lowest in overall score.  Founders Devil Dancer (12%) and Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale (11.5%) were the next highest in ABV and ended up at #17 and #18 respectively.  The only beer above 10% to even crack the Top 10 in quality was Avery's Maharaja clocking in a 10.5% ABV and ranked 8th.

Conversely, the three beers with the lowest ABV - Russian River Pliny the Elder (8%), Stone Ruination (7.7%) and Lagunitas Hop Stoopid (8%) ranked #1, #4 and #9 respectively, all in the Top 10.  The outlier in the ABV department was Lagunitas Maximus (8.2%) coming in at #19.

Additionally, the correlation between IBUs (International Bitterness Units) and ranking was interesting.  While it was not as strong as the ABV correlation, it was interesting to note that most of the beers that were over 100 IBUs were in the bottom half of the list.  Those that hovered around 100 or a little lower generally received higher scores.

Interestingly, it seems as though in the Double IPA category, Beer Advocate reviewers prefer a more reasonable alcohol content and a slightly less over-the-top hop profile.

That is not necessarily the case for me, however.  It turns out the ABV did not impact my taste very much, but I love bitter beer and generally speaking the hoppier and more bitter, the better.  Let's take a look at how I ranked these 20 beers:

1. AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) - 4.85/A+
2. Bell's Hopslam - 4.75/A+
3. Stone Ruination - 4.68/A+
4. Avery Maharaja - 4.68/A+
5. Russian River Pliny the Elder - 4.53/A+
6. Founders Double Trouble - 4.4/A
7. Founders Devil Dancer - 4.33/A
8. Dogfish Head Burton Baton - 4.25/A-
9. Three Floyds Dreadnaught - 4.2/A-
10. Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA - 4.2/A-
11. Oskar Blues Gordon Ale/G'Knight Ale - 3.95/B+
12. Lagunitas Maximus - 3.93/B+
13. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA - 3.9/B+
14. Victory Hop Wallop - 3.68/B
15. Lagunitas Hop Stoopid - 3.65/B
16. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - 3.65/B
17. Southern Tier Unearthly (Imperial IPA) - 3.6/B
18. Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale - 3.55/B
19. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - 3.48/B-
20. Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale - 2.7/C-

My average review score for the group was a little lower than the average score from other BA members - 4.048, that is still an A-, but a lower one and the grades I most often doled out were A+ and B, both being awarded to five beers apiece.  As I mentioned above, ABV did not seem to influence my score at all.  To my surprise, IBUs did seem to impact my scores, but not in the way I expected.  The beers that hovered right around 100 IBUs ended up doing the best with me.  100 IBUs is pretty typical for a DIPA and it was the beers on the edges of the style in terms of IBUs that fared the worst with me.

The three highest IBU beers, Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe (153), Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (120) and Southern Tier Unearthly (150+) checked in on my list at #10, #16 and #17 respectively.  Three of the four lowest IBU beers, Oskar Blues Gordon Ale (60), Lagunitas Maximus (72) and Victory Hop Wallop (70) ended up in the #11, #12 and #14 spots respectively.  The only low-IBU beer that cracked my top 10 was the Dogfish Head Burton Baton (70) coming in at #8.

So what does this say about me?  Probably not much except that I prefer a more traditional Double IPA.  One that is about 100 IBUs.

On that note, I'm going to wrap this one up and coming soon I'll have my picks for the best beers in each category - look, smell, taste and feel.  Cheers!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I've Been Waiting 8 Months for Tonight's Dessert

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Aug. 13, 2011

Eight or nine months ago I was lucky enough to get a fantastic gift from my former bar's Goose Island rep - a half a case of Bourbon County Brand Stout - one of my all time favorite beers and currently ranked as the 64th best beer in the world on Beer Advocate. I gave a few away, put one in as an extra on a beer trade and drank all but one of them, which I was saving for a special occasion.

Shortly after receiving that gift, my wonderful girlfriend surprised me with a bottle of Bourbon County Rare - it is currently rated the 6th best beer in the world.  Then just a few weeks later, my buddy Chris, a former Goose Island employee brought me a bottle of  Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout - a very rare beer, which I have only had the pleasure of tasting twice - once the night Chris gave me the bottle (he brought another one for us to share that night) and once at the brewery.  It supposedly will never be made again.

So with three of Goose Island's finest works of art from the pre-InBev days, I figured the first night that we are finally settled into our new home in Colorado would be a special enough occasion to indulge in that bottle of Bourbon County Stout along with the bottles of Rare, Vanilla and the Night Stalker that I've have had for the past few months as well.

Of course, I will review each beer and post some results on the site for you.  Although, I have already reviewed the regular Bourbon County Stout when I put it up against Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout.

Just as an FYI, since I'm sure some of you will ask and it might be tough to see in the picture, all of these beers are 2010 releases and all were bottled last fall, so they're almost a year old.  I am very excited!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review #20 - AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer)

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Aug. 11, 2011

Ironically, my very first post as a resident of Boulder, Colorado is also my last review for the DIPA Project.  Yes, I finally tracked it down, drank it and reviewed it - a bottle of AleSmith’s YuleSmith Holiday Ale – the summer version.  As it turns out, it was a fantastic finish to the project coming in as the 20th most reviewed beer on The List and the 20th beer that I reviewed for the site. 

By the way, I have to give a BIG thanks to ren on Beer Advocate for the bottle.  He actually sent me two bottles along with an extra Port Brewing Mongo Double IPA – a pretty awesome extra that I’m very much looking forward to trying. 

Anyhow, I finally cracked this bottle open this afternoon and took it outside to the patio to enjoy some 90 degree Colorado sunshine.  I’m not quite sure if it’s the altitude and the sun talking, but this is one of the best beers I have ever had.  Wow!  Again, what a fantastic beer to close out the list with?  I expected to like it more than the average DIPA on The List, but I did not expect to be completely blown away.  I have to say, for my first AleSmith experience, this one is a winner and I hope I can obtain more of their stuff in the near future. 

OK, now that all my gushing over this beer is out of the way, let’s get on to the specs:

ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: Roughly 100
Brewery Location: San Diego, California
Style: American Double/Imperial India Pale Ale
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A/4.29
My Beer Advocate Rating: A+/4.75
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 20th/827
Brewery Description: AleSmith YuleSmith
Bottled On: Sometime in the Summer of 2011

APPEARANCE:  (5 out of 5) This might be the best looking beer reviewed on 20 Beers in 20 Nights so far, check that, it is the best looking beer I’ve reviewed here so far.   It poured a bright golden yellow color and was very lively.  Hundreds of bubbles of varying sizes floated to the surface for several minutes after the pour.  A nice, stark white, fluffy head rested on top this is where it started getting interesting.  Five minutes and about three sips into this beer half of the head was still hanging strong.  Not much lacing was present at that point, but that seemed to be because the head was still there just sloshing around.  Given that it was a relatively heavy head, it dragged whatever would-be lacing back down with it.  From this point on, however, the lacing became exquisite and full, covering a good 70% of the backside of the glass.  Bubbles continued to filter up half way through the pint, keeping the head alive.  This may be the only beer I’ve ever had that began with a normal sized head that was still intact when I took my last sip.  It was the most incredible head retention I’ve seen on a beer. 

On a slightly separate note, something should be said of the bottle as well.  It is very attractive in its simplicity – colorful, simple and very good looking.

SMELL:  (4.5 out of 5) Before I even poured the bottle I took a quick whiff through the top and got a nose full of pine.  That got me excited and as soon as the YuleSmith was poured I could smell it and again, nothing but wonderful pine.  A more serious sniff revealed…well…more pine.  This smells like a classic West Coast IPA, it reminds me of Sierra’s Harvest Ales a bit.  A little resin could be detected as the beer warmed, but it took a minute for it to come out.  The resiny smell then continued to build and got stronger as the beer went down.

TASTE:  (5 out of 5) Again, what a great beer to finish this project with.  It is big, bold, piney and very hoppy in a classic IPA sense.  A burst of hops and pine upfront smack the palate before a grapefruit and a touch of anise create a bitter rinse for the finish.  The aftertaste is clean, but bitter.  It really prepares the palate for the next sip.  I am very impressed.  This beer is delicious and much like the label, beautiful in its simplicity.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4.5 out of 5) This beer is not flat!  That much is for sure - it is extremely lively and exciting.  Tiny bubbles tickle the tongue and scrub the bitterness into the palate.  This beer seriously has some solid carbonation.  The mouthfeel of the YuleSmith is not simply another piece of the puzzle that makes up this beer, rather it is part of the framework that pulls the rest of it together.  One word to describe both the beer and the mouthfeel would be playful.

OVERALL:  (5 out of 5) The reviews on Beer Advocate were mixed and I am sure I will get plenty of disagreements with my review as I can understand how some IPA fans would not find this beer terribly unique or different.  What makes this such a solid beer to me, though, is the fact that it is simply so spot on for the style.  This is what a Double IPA strives to be – elegant looking, full of hoppy aroma and packing a bitter punch all while staying balanced enough to enjoy throughout the entire pint.  This is the first beer I have ever tried from AleSmith and it certainly is a winner.  I hope I can get some more of this deliciousness sometime soon.  I am just thankful that I have another full bomber and the bottom of this pint glass, which at the time of this writing I was just getting to, is not the end of the beer.

DRAWBACKS:  AleSmith pretty much drilled this one.  All I can say is that it wasn’t outside the box in any way, shape or form, but I also don’t really care.  If I wanted to get extremely nitpicking I would say that the resiny aroma that built throughout the pint eventually became a tiny, tiny bit more than I would have liked, but really this is almost a perfect beer for the warm summer afternoon I enjoyed on my back patio in Boulder.

SOUND:   I went back and forth on the sound for this beer.  The first tune that popped into my mind is a very obscure piece by a goofy, but brilliant hip-hop artist named Paul Barman.  The word playful is often the best way to describe him and in particular, his song “Burping and Farting” is a ridiculously playful, but intelligent piece.  The YuleSmith effortlessly pairs well with it, but at the other end of the spectrum is a more serious and maybe (given the name and the overall experience of this beer) a slightly better fit – Herbie Mann’s version of “Battle Hymm of the Republic”.  This was the song that Hunter S. Thompson would have made the National Anthem had he ever gotten his say.  Given that this beer is brewed specifically for the 4th of July I think “Battle Hymm” is the more appropriate sound – a patriotic tune for a patriotic beer that truly represents the best of American craftsmanship and creativity.  

Thank you to everyone who has read, participated, traded beer with me for this project or helped out with the blog in any way.  In the next week or so I plan to begin a new project and also to post a wrap-up of this one.  It will include what I learned, my awards for the best of the list and hopefully, a spreadsheet with the specs and rating of each beer.