Saturday, January 30, 2010

Urbock 23, Schloss Eggenberg, Austria

In Austria, bocks are normally available only around Christmas and Easter. On the day before I left Vienna, I spotted a double bock on the shelf at the grocery store and decided it was my destiny to give it a try. Urbock 23 is a doppelbock made by Schloss Eggenberg and is most well-known for its high alcoholic content of 9.6%ABV. In fact, the label on the back of the bottle describes the brew as "the Cognac of Beers." (Not to be confused with "the Champagne of Beers," which is something else entirely.) The Urbock 23 is surprisingly light and clear in color with a subtle creamy flavor. For a high alcohol content beer, it is incredibly smooth. For this aspect, it earns my highest rating yet, a 4.5. If you're not careful, you could down a a bottle too many and end up wondering where you left your pants. I've always been partial to Belgians, but after the Urbock 23, I'm going to start keeping my eye out for double bocks.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Mission, 724 Huntington Ave, Mission Hill, Boston, MA

So the other day, I was in the city and decided to meet Pale Ale Guy for a drink. Unfamiliar to the particular section of the city, I used an IPhone application to pick the bar closest to where I was going to be and lo and behold it spit out The Mission, in Mission Hill, a neighborhood of Boston. The bar is very non-descript on the outside and was sparsely filled when I arrived on a late, lazy weekend afternoon.

Pale Ale Guy was already waiting at the bar and we had our pick of seats. I picked a seat with no taps in front of it and sat down to look at the beer menu. Immediately I was surprised. They had a beer selection of over 80 beers broken out by style, a very impressive list for a place that is pretty small to be carrying such a supply of bottled and draught beers. I went with a Flashback Brown from Boulder Brewing and sat back to enjoy.

As I mentioned, the bar wasn’t overly crowded, but I’d have to say the bar service was top notch. The bartender was knowledgeable on all beers served, was able to make suggestions based on my whims for the afternoon, and allowed me some small samples of the draught beers I was thinking about ordering, as well as some samples of things the staff thought I might like. When you have bartenders like this, it makes for an easy afternoon and you can really put down the beer list and let the bartender take care of you. Since moving to Boston, I have found these kinds of interactions with bartenders rare. Typically you have to build a longstanding relationship with a bartender to earn the perks Pale Ale Guy and I were getting, but I have found that in beer bars you are more likely to have these situations, especially if you are willing to take risks, speak somewhat intelligently about beer, and not order some mass market popular beer.

My only negative thoughts about The Mission are, I wish they would list Brewer, ABV and size of beer on their beer menu and the fact our bartender ended their shift without closing out with us and receiving the benefit of our appreciation. Of course once the bartender closed out so did we, as we enforced Vegas rules, when you’re on a hot streak with a dealer, you close out when they do.

In summation, if you are in Boston and looking for a good beer bar, I would definitely suggest you swing by The Mission. They have trivia Sunday nights and seem to be quite busy on weekend nights. The food was good and if I were to rate my experience on the beer scale I'd give it easily a 4.5.
It's been awhile since we've done a beer bar review, and we should do more of them, but after our experience at The Mission and the fact Eileen posted on Monday giving me a good excuse to skip my posting duties for Monday, I thought I'd contribute a bar review.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sierra Nevada: Torpedo Extra IPA

Once upon a time there was a guy, and this guy loved him some hops. Then one day, this guy found Sierra Nevada Torpedo and lived happily ever after, the end.

Good story huh... I happen to know that guy and know for a fact that this beer was really quite very good. It really should come as no huge surprise though, Sierra Nevada tends to put out a consistently above average product. Matter of fact, I've only had one beer of theirs I didn't like, and that was the Christmas brew, about five years ago. I'm convinced I just got a bad batch or something though.

Some IPA's sacrifice the taste just so they can say they have "twice the hops", or whatever, but this beer does nothing of the sort. Very smooth tasting for an extra hoppy beer, so much so that although the hops are the dominant flavor, they're not the only flavor. It's scent is what you'd expect from an IPA, citrus-y, but it's not overly done. Really, this is one of the best extra IPA's I've had in a long long time.

If you're looking for some extra hops, try the Torpedo. I'm going to give it a 4, which may sound high, but trust me, you'll agree after tasting it for yourself. And at 7.2%abv, that doesn't exactly hurt it's cause.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Starobrno Altbrünner Gold, Starobrno Brewery, Czech Republic

My latest beer remains something of a mystery. While in Vienna, I attempted to order a local Austrian beer on tap and ended up with the Starobrno Altbrünner Gold. The fact that the brewery's name appears to be missing a vowel should have been a signal that something was amiss. It turns out that the Starobrno Brewery is in the Czech Republic, not in Austria. Since the website is Czech, I have no idea what it says, although I do find the music chipper. According to Google Translate, the Altbrünner Gold is "A beer in the style of the Brno tradition. It's been around for several centuries a symbol of the Moravian brewing. A tasty beer, a light amber color and full, hopfigem taste." Hofpigem? I'd characterize this brew with its 5.0% ABV as a light lager. It was okay but a little on the bland side, so I'll give it a 2.5 out of 5.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

840 Imperial IPA, Stone Coast Brewing, Portland, ME

This one is a bit of a mystery. At my local beer retailer, I noticed the Stone Coast Brewing Co. 840 Imperial IPA. I'd never heard of the brewery, even though they are relatively nearby in Portland, ME.

The beer is decent. Nice color, sort of brown-ish copper. There is a bit of sediment in the bottle, due to the secondary bottle conditioning that Stone Coast uses to raise the beer from an IPA to an IIPA. Tastes good too, with a heavy hop presence initially, followed by a slightly sour malt aftertaste.

Here's the strange part: Stone Coast apparently went out of business in 2008. Happens all the time, right? So why the heck did I find this beer in 2010? I guess that it is possible that another brewery bought the Stone Coast brand and recipes, but I can't find anything about it. I like to think that there is a beer distributor truck with Back to the Future capabilities, or something...

For a 2 year old beer, it was not bad. I have no idea if the apparent aging improved the beer or not, but at least it is a good story.

Rating = 3.0

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Echt Kriekenbier

And I wish I could pronounce it too.. that aside, what a splendid little beer I stumbled onto.

Echt Kriekenbier is a Belguim cherry ale. Now it's not quite as fruity as other framboise's I've had, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Underneath the ample cherry flavor was a pretty good beer, and the two flavors actually worked quite well together.

It poured a redish brown which produced a pinkish head of about an inch or so. That sounds kind of dirty, doesn't it? Nothing about this beer was dirty though, just plain goodness. Most fruit beers tend to overwhelm the pallet, killing the beer and giving off too much sweet flavor. This beer did a very good job of balancing the two tastes.

It weighs in at 6.8%abv, which isn't too shabby either. Overall, I'd say those crazy Flemmish folk are onto something good... I'm going to give it a 3.5. I'd like to go higher, but it's not quite a 4. I can see it being a good spring beer, sitting out on the patio, having a couple, before the heat of summer hits.

Köstritzer Schwarzbier, Bad Köstritz, Germany

Thus far, my favortie of the German beers has been the Köstritzer Schwarzbier from the Köstritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei (Köstritzer Black Beer Brewery- "schwarz" means "black" in German and the umlaut was added for toughness), one of the few German breweries known for its dark beers. Despite the appearance, schwarzbier does not taste anything like a stout- it's more like a dark Belgian, in that it looks heavy but tastes lighter than expected and feels refreshing rather than filling. The flavor is roasty and malty but very smooth and not at all overpowering. If you're looking for a German beer that's little fuller than your typical pils or helles, Köstritzer Schwarzbier is an excellent choice. So far, I've only had it on tap but I will try to sample the bottled version as well. 4.8% ABV and a solid 4.0 on the Eileen scale. May the schwarz be with you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Augustiner Helles, Munich, Germnay

For my first Beer Crusade review, I deemed it appropriate to try one of Munich's most popular beers, the Augustiner Helles, straight from the tap. This light lager ("Hell" in German) is the top-selling variety from the Augustiner-Brau, a brewery in existence since 1328. The helles goes through double fermentation and like all beers from the region, is subject to the Bavarian Purity Law stipulating that the only ingrdients shall be grain, hops, and water. "He who knowingly violates these laws will be summarily fined!"

I found the Augustiner Helles to be light, mild, and inherently drinkable, which is a good thing considering it is typically served in one liter glass mugs. Its ABV is 5.2%, so a few too many mugs of Helles could earn you a visit to one of Oktoberfest's famed vomit troughs. I tend to prefer darker, more flavorful beers but something about drinking a giant mug of beer at 11:30am while surrounded by German men eating sausages scored the Augustiner Helles an extra half point in my book for a 3.5 rating.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Red Racer IPA, Central City Brewing Co., Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

My compadres in arms here at Beer Crusade and I have always shared info on liquor stores, but in the last 18 months or so we've found ourselves living in the same area which means we're constantly fighting over beer stores since we've been slowly depleting what's available to us. So as luck would have it, I was referred to 2 new stores this week and I am keeping them to myself. And one of the lucky stores provided me with this week's entry Red Racer IPA.

Now the picture doesn't show it, but if you check out the website you will see this is another canned beer, and like most of its predecessors on the site, it does not disappoint. The foamy goodness poured with a large head that took it's time to settle, and came out with a great orange hue. The hops provide a wonderful grapefruity citrus taste. That taste combines perfectly with the malt to create a strong tasting beer. There is heavy hop bitterness but not too much to detract from the beer. I tend to drink beers I am reviewing slowly, but I found myself gulping this one because it was so good. The 5.5% ABV is also solid. The Red Racer IPA gets a 4.5, look for the lady on the motorcycle in a store near you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Black Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY

After Beer Crusade noted the lack of stout reviews, I decided to address the problem head on. Honestly, I'm glad that I did.

The Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is one of the best stouts that I've ever had. And they are quite serious about the blackness - this beer is totally dark, with no light coming through. This one pours into the glass like a cup of syrup. There is a very light aroma of bitter chocolate along with a whiff of alcohol.

The taste is terrific! Mildly bitter from the roasted malts, the flavor is mostly chocolate and coffee. There is a bit of heat from the alcohol, but not too bad. Brooklyn's website suggests that this beer would go well with chocolate desserts, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to try that combination. With an ABV of 10.1%, this beer is probably best described as "potent".

Rating = 4.0

Officially, this is an Imperial Stout, which is basically a stout with high ABV and strong malt flavors. This one fits the style very nicely.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Brooklyn: Brown Ale

First, I would like to start off by apologizing to both my loyal readers. I'm in the midst of moving, and forgot to post my review last night. I did my penance by only having one drink tonight, as opposed to the usual 12 pack.

Now, I first discovered the Brooklyn Brewery about five years ago and immediately fell in love with them. Their book is fantastic and it's totally my dream to emulate their success. I haven't loved all their brews, but for the most part I've been a big big fan. Tonight I decided to try the Brown Ale.

I've never had it before, and I gotta say it wasn't too shabby. I'd compare it to the Sam Adams Brown, with a more chocolaty taste to it. It only has a 5.6%abv, which is a little low compared to some of my recent reviews, but I was pretty happy with it overall. The chocolate definitely dominated and you could still taste the malt, but I was a little disappointed in the lack of hops. I'm going to give this brew a solid 3. Not out of this world spectacular, but without a doubt worth a six pack purchase.

Big Announcement Number 2

First of all let me address the picture on the left, as you can see we totally dedicate all financial resources to our graphic design team. I almost just scrapped this version because the purple “B.C.” reminded me of Batman when the Joker went into the museum and started putting smileys and dollar signs on all the paintings (great cameo by Matthew Perry as "Man falls into soup"). This of course led to a serious internal discussion of which Joker was better, Nicholson’s or Ledger’s, after twenty minutes I forgot what started me on this Joker path and just left the picture as is.

Now for the Big Announcement Number 2, formerly Big Announcement Number 1 before it was scooped by Eileen. You all may recall a little tournament in May 2008 called the Major Beers Sweet 16 Tournament (see links here and here). Well for 2010 we wanted to do something a little different, we’re talking a Beer World Cup. The 2010 Beer World Cup will pit 16 beers across several continents against each other for World Domination. Now we still are in the planning stages, but there will be some simple guidelines in place, like beers will have to be in similar styles and representative of that particular country. Of course as we know more we will pass along the details. Apparently Belgium is an early favorite. Please offer any beer suggestions you may have, as of right now, we are limiting the styles to lager/pale ale.

So keep an eye out for more information!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big Announcement Number 1

O.K. yes Big Announcement Number 1, means that there will be Big Announcement Number 2 soon, but here goes, Beer Crusade has signed up it's first Foreign Beer Correspondent. Trusted drinker Eileen over at Divine Comedy of Errors has agreed to sample some wares on her 2 week European tour (you can read about her trip here) and send us in some reviews. It's a tough job, but we think she's up to the task. So please join us in welcoming Eileen to the Crusade.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hefe-Weizen, Paulaner Brewing Co., Munich, Germany

So, when looking over my options this week on what to review I came upon another entry for Green Flash Brewing Co. and thought I was all set. However the KSA pointed out that I had reviewed a Green Flash last week and well that’s a little boring to use the same brewery two weeks in a row. Even more disappointing is that the only reviewable beer left in my fridge was the Paulaner Hefe-Weizen. Some of you may not find that to be disappointing at all, however part of the reason I brought in KSA and PAG was because I hoped they would cover the beer styles I didn’t like. Needless to say me and the Hefe-Weizen had a date later that evening.

Hefeweizen are unfiltered wheat beers, pouring the Paulaner into my glass I immediately noticed how cloudy the orange brown liquid was. This coloring was offset by a foamy rich head. I found the floral bouquet to be quite distracting and enhanced by the effervescence of the brew before me. The beer has a light banana wheat taste with a honeyish tinge. The beer finishes very dry and I find it to be unquenching. The 5.5% ABV is adequate.

I give the Paulaner a 3.0, pretty generous I might add as these beers are not my cup of tea.
Speaking of things not my cup of tea, I have promised a big announcement, and it will happen either tonight or tomorrow so keep coming back until it does. And no, it is not Jersey Shore related, although it could be just as awesome but without the hair gel.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Frye's Leap IPA, Sebago Brewing Co., Gorham, ME

We've reviewed Sebago Brewing Co. products on this site before, and last time they pulled in a middle-of-the-road 3.0. Apparently that was the high point.

The Frye's Leap IPA is apparently the flagship beer at Sebago. Normally, with an IPA, you'd expect a hit of hop aroma. Not in this beer. All of the hops are concentrated in the flavor, making it a bit bitter, though there are interesting flavors of citrus and sort-of pine. There is a lot of residue in the bottle, much like a homebrew, leading to a cloudy visual presentation. The ABV of 5.7% is not bad, but nothing special.

Let's just say, if you brewed this beer at home in a Mr. Beer kit, you'd be quite happy. And I don't mean that to be a compliment...

With a name like "Frye's Leap", you'd think that the label would have a cool story about jumping off of a rock into Sebago Lake. Maybe they could even talk about how that jump came to be known as Frye's Leap. The boys in Sebago's marketing department apparently disagree. I feel lucky that we even get a picture on the label.

Rating = 2.0

I knew that it was a bad sign when the most prominent thing on their website is a picture of the food at their restaurants, like chicken ceasar salad or a nice reuben.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel

Wow, trying saying that five times fast...

And at a stiff 9%abv, it might be tougher than you think. At first pour, I was surprised by the large head the Dobbelen IPA Tripel produced. After waiting the required 2-3 minutes for it to dissipate, I took my first sip. The golden yellow beer went down quite smooth, but I was mildly surprised by its lack of taste. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but nothing really jumped out at me. To me, it was a softer version of a normal IPA, basically just another Belgium beer. Nothing particularly horrible about it, but nothing particularly amazing about it either.

I'd definitely buy it again, but it's not something that I'd search out. I'm going to give it a 3, because everything about this beer is just ever so slightly above average.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sigh....Jumping the gun

Due to some mis-labeling of the Dogfish Head Red & White from Nov 24th, it has just come to my attention that today's post was my 100th review, not last week's Harpoon Winter Warmer. Oh well.

West Coast IPA, Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Taking the trip in Way Back machine here. In October 2007, I decided to take a trip to Coronado Island in San Diego. I had a free hotel room, courtesy of the wife, and great friends in the area so it was a no-brainer. On this trip I decided to try as many local brews as possible. My gracious co-hosts Erin and Ryan took me to a wonderful bar called the Yard House. So many beers on tap, and one of them was the West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing Co. Why do you care about this? Well for one, my wife, Erin, Ryan, and the Yard House are all awesome. And two, this trip started the Beer Crusade. After getting back I emailed reviews of all the brews I tried and people convinced me I should start the blog, the rest they say is history. Of course, I procrastinated several months after the visit, let;s just say I needed months of convincing to start this thing.

The West Coast IPA uses several hops which combine to make a bitter, yet well balanced entry into the land of IPAs. Despite the confluence of hops, the beer does not come off as too hoppy, much in the same way it's 7% ABV is not too alcoholly in taste. The beer is caramel in coloring and pours with generous head. If you like your IPAs on the bitter side, but not too bitter, the West Coast IPA is for you. One final note on the Green Flash Brewery, on their employment page they suggest that they always can use some help on bottling days, for some reason this always made me think I could start my own brewery.

The West Coast IPA gets a 3.5.