Saturday, November 21, 2009

Great Divide Brewing Company - Hercules Double IPA

Nearly a month has passed since my last post. Only just slightly ridiculous, I know. I've been wanting to review new beers. I have many currently in my fridge. Finally, I am getting around to it. And I am going to try out something from Great Divide Brewing Co (something a lot of my friends have been urging me to do). So let's do it. Here goes.

The Great Divide Brewing Co comes at us from Denver, Colorado. Now personally, I have never tasted anything from them, so I have no opinion on them, except for what I've heard from my friends. They all say the beer is good. The first thing I notice as I'm looking through their website is this:

"These beers have landed an impressive amount of acclaim: Great Divide beers have earned 16 Great American Beer Festival medals and 4 World Beer Cup awards. Great Divide was also ranked 14th in’s 2008 “The Best Brewers in the World” and was ranked 7th in Beer Advocate’s 2008 “All-Time Top Breweries on Planet Earth.”

But why take their word for it? Crack open a bottle and decide for yourself."

Now that piques my curiosity. Many Brewing Company's make outrageous claims, attempting to make their beer stand out from the rest, when everyone knows they're nothing special. There have however, been a handful of times in my life when I stumble upon a place or location or brewing co that actually delivers on what they claim. Let's find out if Great Divide can live up to their claim...

Name: Hercules Double IPA
Category: Double IPA
ABV: 10.0%
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown

The Pour: Pours clear amber, light orange. The head is off-white, pale yellow. Slight retention.

The Nose: Smells dusty, slightly sour. Definitely malty and sweet. Lots of nuttiness, slight hints of roasted chocolate? The high alcohol is easily detected. Overall it smells wonderfully complex and full of subtle flavors and maybe even some surprises. I'm eager to taste it.

The Taste: I immediately detect that this beer is dry and alcoholic. Sweetness on the tip of the tongue that spreads to the back of the palette. Not super thick or syrupy (like some double or imperial IPA's can be). Low on the carbonation. Very malty and surprisingly not very sweet. Definitely able to detect a sweetness middle of the tongue. But it fades at the end and finishes with a slight hint of bitterness and nutty malt flavor. Not very bitter at all actually. For 85 IBU's it has definitely been compensated for.

The Verdict: Well, I don't know. Perhaps this bottle has been sitting for too long? After all, it was bottled on April 14th, of this year. It's a solid brew for sure, but flavor-wise I'd have to say I prefer more sweetness, more bitterness (especially from a Double IPA), and especially if they claim that they have balanced it well. I read reviews online, and many are claiming they find this beer satisfying and sweet. The alcohol is hidden well, but for me I don't/can't detect the sweetness. It leaves my mouth feeling dry and that is not a trait I find attractive in any beer. I think I'll have to go and buy another, perhaps more fresh bottle of this brew before I make any definite opinions of it yet. The aroma is lovely, but the flavor disappointed me...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cali-Belgique India Pale Ale

It has been awhile since I've reviewed a beer but I'm back! Hopefully you didn't miss me too much :P This time I am reviewing for the first time, a brew from Stone Brewing Company (one of my favorite Brewing Co's).

Stone Brewing Co comes to us from Escondido, California (just north of San Diego for a quick geographical reference), and is a very large distributor of beers up and down the west coast of the US. Now the question you may be asking is whether or not Stone Brewing Co is considered a microbrewery. The technical definition of a microbrewery is a brewery that produces small batches of beer and typically only distributes them locally, or regionally, but never cross-country or internationally. I suppose Stone Brewing Company can be considered a craftbrewery, which defines the approach to making the beer rather than the distribution or amount. And so now that we have clearly defined Stone as a craftbrewery, let's continue on here.

Stone Brewing Co brews great beer. That much is apparent. The tastes are unique and despite the broad distribution one can find its brews (from Safeway to World Market and QFC to PCC and Haggen), it still retains the uniqueness and most importantly, the deliciousness. Just to name afew of its popular brews: Stone IPA, Arrogant Bastard Ale (yes, this is a beer), Ruination IPA (one of my all-time faves), Smoked Porter, and Old Guardian Barley Wine. They also have a selection of limited and special release brews, which includes my friend here: The Cali-Belgique IPA, Double Arrogant Bastard Ale, and an Imperial Russian Stout. Typically we find them sold in 22 oz bottles, but I have seen them sold in 6 packs as well (I just so happened to find this beer in a 22 oz bottle at the Haggen in Burlington). Chances are good that if you see Stone Brewing Co on the side of a bottle, it's good and you won't disappoint yourself by purchasing it. So go for it! Reach for something new, and if it just so happens to be from Stone, be ready for a good ride! Now onto the beer!

Name: Cali-Belgique IPA
Category: California Style India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.9%
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Columbus, Centennial, Dry-hopped with Chinook

The Pour: Pale golden yellow, clear, definitely filtered. The head is white and fluffy, good amount of lacing, and good retention.

The Nose: Sweet and syrupy, hints of belgian yeast, hints of canned dole pineapple and pine trees as well as citrus (oranges and grapefuit). I'm getting some hints of bubblegum? I'm detecting also a slight mustiness. Overall, it is very sweet (a sweetness typical of many belgian ales), and appealing. I'm excited to try this unique IPA.

The Taste: Initially spicy, medium carb, sweet on the palette. Definite sweet pine notes traveling up into my nose. Light sweetness in the middle and the finish is mellow, ending with a nice amount of lingering bitterness. Really well balanced.

The Verdict: A very traditional IPA here. As the back of the bottle states, the aroma is a bit funky and different from regular Stone IPA, mostly due to the fact they used belgian yeast strains rather than their standard ones. The flavor is very well-balanced and I definitely would not say it is overly bitter. For someone testing the waters of the IPA, this might not be a bad one to try out. And for everyone out there already a fan of the IPA, then this provides you with a twist on the average IPA. Go pick up a 22 ouncer of this, and you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier means: "Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer" in german. And Schlenkerla is the historic brewery located in Bamberg, Germany in the northern region of Bavaria. Now looking more into this brewery, it would seem that it was first opened in 1405 and has been brewing smokebeer since 1678. Now that's a long time. Bamberg germany specializes in this unique style of beer known as smokebeer and as german law mandates, this brewery follows the Reinheitsgebot (german purity laws).

But what exactly is smokebeer? And what is the Reinheitsgebot? Good questions. In a nutshell, Smokebeer is a lager (bottom fermented beer) which contains smoked malt. The brewery achieves this by smoking the barley with beechwood logs at the time of malting and the result is the smokey flavor found in the beer.

Now, what is this Reinheitsgebot? The Reinheitsgebot is a set of laws first enacted in 1516 by King Ludwig. The law stated that the brewers of beer were only allowed to use barley, water, and hops. The law is no longer in use, but many breweries still claim to follow these purity laws. It is definitely a matter of pride. Look for this on the bottles of many german (bavarian more specifically) beers.

This will be my first taste of a true german brewed rauchbier so as you can guess, I am pretty excited! So let's do it!

Category: Rauchbier
ABV: 5.1%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown

The Pour: Very dark amber, a slight orange-crimson hue. The head is off-white, minimal retention, and so far the lacing is weak.

The Nose: As expected, the nose in bombarded immediately with a smokiness reminscent of campfires. Smoked meat aromas arise when the glass is swirled. I am also getting some dark roasted coffee hints as well. It will be interesting to taste this.

The Taste: The carbonation is initially strong but recedes and is of medium-to-low carb. Perhaps this bottle is abit flat? Smoke is everywhere in this...initially, midway through, and on the finish. Definite hints of smokey campfires, and smoked meats, perhaps bacon or bologna. Lingering on the palette the beer is slightly sweet and smokey. The roasted malts and coffee are apparent near the finish. The mouthfeel is not heavy and it's very drinkable. A lovely beer and much better than my first rauchbier experience!

The Verdict: This beer is definitely unique. I have had several other kinds of smoked beers (smoked porters, a chipotle ale, and an american brewed rauchbier) and my experience with them has been intriguing. It definitely is something you should try at least once. I picked this bottle up at the Cost Plus World Market in Bellevue across from Bellevue Square. If you weren't already aware of it, the World Market has a very nice beer selection offering many different types from all over the world. Now go out and buy a bottle of this. I don't think you'll be disappointed if you're looking for something different than the average everyday beer.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Alaskan Brewing Co - Baltic Porter Ale

And so after a weeklong hiatus, I am back to review yet another beer. This time however, I decided I'd like to try something darker, heavier, more robust. While browsing through the beer section at the Red Apple Market in Issaquah, I discovered this bottle of Alaskan Brewing Co's Baltic Porter Ale. Apparently, this beer has been brewed with Cherries, Brown Sugar, Vanilla Beans, and Oak Chips. I am hoping this will be a good recipe for one heck of a sensation on my palette.

But before we dive in, let's pause for a moment to recognize Alaskan Brewing Company. Alaskan Brewing Co is probably most well known for its amber ale. Alaskan Amber is very popular in the pacific northwest. In addition to the amber, Alaskan Brewing Co also brews a pale ale, white ale, a stout, an ipa, two seasonals, a smoked porter and also a handful of rare hard to find if not in alaska special brews (like the one I have here tonight).

And so taking this a step further, what exactly is a Porter? And even better, what is a Baltic Porter? Two very good questions. As the name suggests, a Porter is an Ale. During the brewing process the yeast used to convert sugars into CO2 and alcohol floats on the top, this is what defines an ale as an ale.
Porters are usually very dark and are often confused with stouts. Porters get their dark coloration from the black or chocolate malts typically used in the production of these beers. Typical flavors on the palette will be roasty and chocolatey.
But this is where we draw the distinction between your standard Porter, and your Baltic Porter. Baltic Porters are considered to be Imperial Porters. Imperial Porters typically contain a much higher alcohol percentage than that of a regular porter, usually in upwards of 7.5%. The main difference being that the Imperial Porters tend to lack the roasted flavor of stouts and regular porters, with dark malts being the most prevalent flavor. The Baltic Porter are all that remain of a 19th century Baltic Trade in Imperial Stouts. Baltic Porters are typically bottom fermented, but in the case of the Alaskan Baltic, it is an example of a top fermented Baltic. Usually, Baltic Porters range in alcohol content from 7 - 9.5%. They are usually very sweet, and strong. So here we go, let's give it a shot...

Category: Baltic Porter Ale
ABV: 9.8%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown

The Pour: The Baltic Porter pours a thick very dark red, nearly black, and leaves a lovely tan head with poor retention. Slight lacing on the glass.

The Nose: Very malty, lots of cereal, notable amount of sweetness and a high alcohol content is easily detected. Smells rich, full of malt, and body. I can also detect slight oaky nuttiness, and a faint cherry vanilla aroma. Now it's time for the taste!

The Taste: Initially the mouthfeel is not heavy at all, the low carbonation character of higher alcohol brews, makes this very smooth. Cherry and vanilla on the tip of the tongue which fades to a noticeable darker roastiness on the back of the palette. Lots of cereal and dark malts throughout and slight hints of cola in there as well. I'm picking up hints of coffee and bittersweet chocolate notes at the very end.

The Verdict: Tough for me to dislike this one, but it might be very easy for someone who does not like dark beer and higher alcohol beers to enjoy it. The flavors presented in this one are very unique. Cherry Vanilla, oak, coffee and chocolate...all combine to create something very smooth, intriguing, unique and in my opinion, very delicious. If you don't already have an affinity for dark beers, most namely porters, stouts, or imperials of the same name, you might want to steer clear of this one. It just might be too much to handle.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lagunita's Brewing Company - Lucky #13

This new brew comes to us from Lagunitas Brewing Company based in Petaluma, California. Lucky 13 is the 13th Anniversary Ale and also part of Lagunita's rotating 2009 Seasonal 22 ounce brews. Lagunita's is well known for producing a wide selection of high-quality uniquely flavored brews. I purchased this bottle from Haggen in Burlington, WA. I'm excited to try it.

Category: Strong Red Ale
ABV: 8.3%
IBU: 76.92
OG* (Original Gravity): 1.085
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown

The Pour: Pours a dark reddish amber. The head is pale cream colored, slight retention and slight lacing on the glass.

The Nose: Initially very sweet and sugary, caramel notes, slight malt, faint nuttiness, dark pine, some pineapple, smells heavy, extremely sweet. Can't wait to taste it.

The Taste: Light to medium carbonation on the palette, very smooth. Tingly, slightly spicy on the tip of the tongue. As expected it is very sweet, and tastes of cereal and dark malts, very heavy mouthfeel, almost syrupy. Also a detectable amount of bitterness midway through and on the finish. A nice lingering bittersweetness on the back of the tongue lasting long after the beer is swallowed. Slight warming on the back of the throat.

The Verdict: I enjoyed this brew. Its quite heavy and higher on the alcohol content. If you're looking for something unique, hoppy, rich, and sweet, give this one a shot!

*OG (Original Gravity): A measurement of the density of fermentable sugars in a mixture of malt and water with which a brewer begins a given batch. It gives the brewer an idea of how strong the beer will be.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New Beer: Grandsun of Spot IPA

Ok ok, so a lot of you might be thinking that I've forgotten how to spell here. However, I have not. The correct spelling would be grandson, but this beer just so happens to be part of Full Sail Brewing Company's Summer "Sun" Series. The Grandsun of Spot IPA is just the next in line of the Brewmasters Reserve Series for 2009, a rotating selection of special brewmasters release beers that rotate every 10 weeks or so. Full Sail Brewing Co ( at us from Hood River Oregon and is the brewer of many unique and delicious hoppy brews. Two of my favorites include the winter brew: Wassail and another of the Brewmasters Reserves: Keelhauler. And so here we go, Grandsun of Spot IPA...

Category: India Pale Ale
ABV (Alcohol per Barrel Volume): 6.0%
IBU (International Bitterness Units): 80
Malt Type(s): Munich and Honey
Hop Type(s): Columbus

The nose: Initially very heavy, sweet and sugary, brown sugar and molasses notes, very malty, with a detectable amount of hoppiness. This makes me curious.

The pour: This beer pours a dark orange amber. The head is off-white, slight retention. The malty sugary molasses scents are still apparent, and only when one swirls the glass will the the hops show themselves. Now let's taste it.

The taste: Oh wow. Initial detection is of medium carbonation. Very interesting in that I am able to taste the hops almost immediately. Tastes thin, yet I am able to detect a little sweetness and malt. The hops are apparent throughout and they linger on your palette for a very long time afterwards. I will have to see how the taste develops as I consume more, but I am a definite fan of the IPA. If you're not, this may not be the beer for you. Overall I would say this is a good brew for the lover of hoppy brews!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The First Beer: Pliny the Elder

Allow me first to provide some background information on where this beer comes from. Pliny the Elder is brewed by Russian River Brewing Company, based out of Santa Rosa, California ( This brewing co focuses mainly on: "traditional aggressively hopped California style ales, Belgian style ales, and barrel aged beers." This brewing co distributes almost exclusively to the west coast of the United States, with Colorado and Pennsylvania being the only non-west coast states currently selling beer from Russian River. This brewer is well-known to produce top-notch, unique and rare beers. Oh and also, If you're curious to know who and why Russian River named a beer after this guy, Pliny the Elder, a good resource for some basic reading is wikipedia ( and now for the beer...

Upon opening the bottle of Pliny the Elder, I take a whiff of the aroma, and it smells of sweet pine and lots of big delicious hops.

It pours a clear golden yellow to pale orange. The head is fluffy and off-white yellowish in color. Swirling the glass, deeper aromas come to the surface and I'm getting a much sweeter, dole pineapple, thick and heavy hop aromas. I can't wait for the first sip.

Upon sipping for the first time I let it slide over my palette. Initially I detect a spicy and sweet, slightly fizzy carbonation. Not too heavy on the carb, not too light, just the right amount.

The mouthfeel airs more on the medium side. Not heavy or thick like a lot of Double/Imperial IPA's. A slight bitterness comes to the tip of my tongue midway through, but the full extent of the hops and bitterness aren't apparent until the finish, even then it's subtle. A very refreshing, very drinkable, hoppy medium bodied beer!


So this will be the first post of my new blog. I hope I can build a following on here. I'll be posting descriptions of new beers both foreign and domestic, as well as descriptions of breweries, brewpubs, and general beer locations around seattle and the pacific northwest! Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by!