Category Archives: Beer

Review: Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip (2013) and Chasin’ Freshies (2013)

chasin freshies 300x221 Review: Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip (2013) and Chasin Freshies (2013)Deschutes Brewery’s new limited releases are out, both part of its anticipated Bond Street Series of brews. They’re both made with fresh hops, freshly picked then turned into beer pretty much immediately. As such, it’s important to drink these brews right away. Having them sit around in a pantry for months will do them a great disservice. Thoughts follow.

Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip (2013) – This year’s Hop Trip offers, as one would expect and hope, plenty of hops, but the bitterness is shorted out (for better or worse) by tons of malty caramel character and a finish that offers bitter orange peel notes. Appealing, but by the end of the glass I was finding the body to run on the watery side, particularly as it warmed up. 5.4% abv. B+ / $9 per six-pack

Deschutes Brewery Chasin’ Freshies (2013) – Fresh amarillo hops give this IPA a slight lemony kick, with a bracingly bitter backbone to keep things on the right and narrow. Some evergreen character adds nuance, but the fresh hops and citrus notes do most of the talking. Slight touch of malt on the finish. 7.4% abv. A- / $6 per 22 oz. bottle

deschutesbrewery.com

Review: Deschutes Brewery Jubelale Winter Ale 2013

Ho ho ho, Merry, uh, Halloween?

Deschutes annjubelale Review: Deschutes Brewery Jubelale Winter Ale 2013ual winter brew release, Jubelale, is is here… a tad early, but who’s complaining? We missed the last couple of releases of this seasonal beer, but like an old glove it still fits well. This year’s release is nutty and malty, with a chocolatey core that wavers between milky and bittersweet. The finish drives toward a coffee character, with chewy, woody notes to it (Deschutes’ tasting notes use chicory as a reference, which I think is just about spot on). I could use a little more sweetness in the mix, but overall, as usual, this is a satisfying and warming “festive” brew.

The only problem is that as I sip on this here in Northern California, it’s 90 degrees outside. Should I drink it now in the heat or wait a couple of months til things chill down? Ah, decisions…

6.7% abv.

A- / $8 per six-pack / deschutesbrewery.com

Review: Hermitage Brewing Company India Pale Ale Single Hop Series – Calypso

hermitage calypso 300x170 Review: Hermitage Brewing Company India Pale Ale Single Hop Series   CalypsoOur third review in San Jose, California-based Hermitage Brewing Company’s Single Hop Series of IPAs brings us to the Calypso hop, “a dual purpose hop that was originally bred from the Nugget hop varietal.”

The nose is extremely fruity — big apples and some light citrus notes. On the body, waves of warm caramel sauce and a big, malty back-end take hold. Here you’ll find a more burly, campfire-style brew, not nearly as bitter as its 70 IBUs would indicate, mouth-filling, warming, and surprisingly creamy. Ultimately a crisper and more bitter brew is more to my personal taste, but as experiments go, this is one of the more interesting ones out there.

7% abv.

B / $6 per 22 oz. bottle / hermitagebrewing.com

Review: Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXV 25th Birthday Reserve

deschutes black butte xxv 239x300 Review: Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXV 25th Birthday ReserveWe haven’t encountered Deschutes’ Black Butte since its XXI release in 2009. It’s time for a fresh look at this annual, limited-edition aged porter from one of Oregon’s premiere breweries.

This experimental release is a bit different every year. For 2013 it’s brewed with dates, figs, and cocoa nibs, and half is aged in bourbon barrels. 1/8th has black currants added to the ingredient bill.

As always, this is a complex brew, and the dates and figs come through extremely clearly. After that, you get a one-two punch: Lots of hoppy bitterness, and a sweet vanilla character driven by the bourbon barrelling. The fruit is a little too far forward in this release, but at the same time the quite bitter finish is surprisingly drying. Fortunately, these two polar opposites tend to balance each other out as you sip the beer, inviting continued drinking and, over time, building to a refreshing and happy medium. (Mind the alcohol level, though.)

Fans of barrel-aged brews will eat this up. Nab it if you can still find a bottle.

11.3% abv. Best in mid-2014.

A- / $14 per 22 oz. bottle / deschutesbrewery.com

Review: 3 Seasonal Beers from Hangar 24

hangar 24 essence 77x300 Review: 3 Seasonal Beers from Hangar 24The seasonals from Hangar 24 just do not stop coming. Here’s three more for summer and fall.

Hangar 24 Oktoberfest Fall Lager – Can Oktoberfest be upon us already? This classic Oktoberfest-style brew is malty with plenty of chewy caramel to go around. Very light baking spice notes — think gingerbread — interact with the sweetness and give some curiosity to the finish. Those looking for bracing bitterness need not apply. 5.7% abv. B+ / $8 per four-pack of 12 oz. bottles

Hangar 24 Local Fields Polycot Wheat – A seasonal wheat beer brewed with apricots. (Poly = many apricots.) Better than I was expecting, with more of a peachy note to it and a touch of white grape juice on the back end. Quite winey, as that description would imply, with the bitterness held firmly in check. Fans of wheat beers will probably gobble this up. (It’s Hangar’s best seller in the Local Fields series.) 7.2% abv. B+ / $9 per 22 oz. bottle

Hangar 24 Local Fields Essence – A double IPA brewed with navel oranges, blood oranges, and grapefruit. This works, and remarkably well. All that citrus is kept well in check by bracing bitterness, and none of the three fruits dominates the others. I think the addition of grapefruit is what really makes this, a touch of puckering sourness that balances out the earthy, piney hops character, giving Essence loads of complexity — plus easy drinkability. The lovely, light copper color only adds to the appeal. (“Peel,” get it!?) 8.5% abv. A / $7 per 22 oz. bottle

hangar24brewery.com

 

Review: Magic Hat deVEILed and Seance

Yes, even more new beers from Magic Hat, these two mercifully devoid of flowers and odd vegetables being used as flavoring agents. Alas, neither of them really floated our proverbial boat.MHT DEVEILED 12oz3D 2013 106x300 Review: Magic Hat deVEILed and Seance

Magic Hat deVEILed - An amber ale. Muddy and indistinct, with loads upon loads of malt that drown out the hops. Twigs and earth are the primary characteristics here, with a bit of tobacco and ash. Not much under the veil, alas. Not my style. 5.2% abv. C-

Magic Hat Seance – A dark saison. Slightly smoky up front, with a rich, bittersweet chocolate note that comes on after. Malt and hops are more in balance here, but it’s still skewed heavily toward the former. The promised fruit doesn’t really materialize except for a whiff of dates in the end. 4.4% abv. B-

$NA / magichat.net

Review: Mammoth Brewing Company EPIC IPA

EPIC ipa 187x300 Review: Mammoth Brewing Company EPIC IPAMammoth Brewing Company is one of the centerpieces of CANFEST, a beer festival with a twist: All the beers are poured not from taps or bottles but from cans. I couldn’t attend the Reno-based event (which happens tomorrow), but the organizers were kind enough to send me one of the event’s top offerings. Thoughts follow.

A canned IPA from the “highest brewery on the west coast.” Pours a darkish honey color, with a minimal head (and only modest carbonation). Hoppy nose, with some pine needles for good measure. On the palate, more of the same, with ample malt and a light citrus element that builds in the finish. Simple, amply bitter, and lightly sweet on the back end to give it some curiosity. Overall quite a good and refreshing brew.

6.5% abv.

A- / $NA / mammothbrewingco.com

Review: Casey Jones Imperial India Pale Ale

casey jones ipa Review: Casey Jones Imperial India Pale AleA fruity, citrus-infused IPA from Iron Springs Brewery in nearby Fairfax, California. Piney on the nose, it quickly leads into a brisk and bracing bitterness, full of orange peel, peppery spice, and tons of hops. The fruit character balances things out, but the bitterness does not release its hold easily. The finish is long and lasting, offering more of an orange oil character as it mellows out, making things enticing for continued drinking despite the hefty alcohol level.

9% abv.

A- / $7 per 22 oz. bottle / ironspringspub.com

Review: Samuel Adams Little White Rye and Blueberry Hill Lager

samuel adams Little White Rye Hi Res 79x300 Review: Samuel Adams Little White Rye and Blueberry Hill LagerTwo new entries into Sam Adams’ “craft brew” lineup. No introduction needed, really. These beers speak pretty well for themselves.

Samuel Adams Little White Rye – A white witbier. Spicy, with clear citrus and coriander notes. That burly, Asian-inflected character builds more and more until that hefty herbal character — namely the sage used in the brew — hits the forefront. Quite a powerhouse, and far from the semi-sweet refresher you might be expecting from a late summer seasonal. (Hence the name, of course.) 5.3% abv. B

Samuel Adams Blueberry Hill Lager – I thought I would hate this. It’s lager with blueberries, of course. Turns out it is surprisingly drinkable, at least for one bottle. The blueberry is strong on the nose and on the finish, but the middle part is a rich and creamy, unfiltered lager with plenty of heft. Refreshing and fun, especially on a hot day, but one is probably plenty. 5.5% abv. B+

samueladams.com

Review: Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout

w00tstout 2 224x300 Review: Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout I don’t want to delve into the deep and sordid story that led to this insane idea becoming a reality, but suffice it to say: Stone Brewing Company has partnered with, of all people, Fark.com founder Drew Curtis and geek legend/homebrewer Wil Wheaton to create their very own beer. The duo actually did time in the brewery, hauling grain and working line at Stone. Then they got their pictures on the bottle.

The beer itself has quite a pedigree. An imperial stout by style, it adds wheat (for Wheaton) plus rye and pecans (from Curtis’s home state of Kentucky) into the mix. It’s then aged in bourbon barrels for 2 1/2 months before bottling at 13% abv. (Whoa.)

It’s a chewy, molasses-forward beer, with a nose that recalls chocolate covered cherries. I get a bit of smoke, too. The body is filling, and a little oily, but amazingly deep. The molasses and chocolate are the most pronounced part of the beer, with some nuttiness from the pecans evident on the finish.

w00tstout 300x199 Review: Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout But those are just my notes. I also asked Curtis (pictured, on the left) for his tasting notes and he enthused endlessly: “Here’s some non-standard description for you: for folks who have ever had a bourbon barrel stout before, most of them have a few similar characteristics: thick and heavy, super sweet, strong bourbon flavor. Stone Farking Wheaton w00tStout has none of those.  I mean yeah it’s not particularly light, but it’s not super heavy or super sweet.  And a friend of mine told me ‘I think maybe I can taste the bourbon in it’ which is awesome because in most bourbon barrel stouts the bourbon flavor is a brick to the face. Treat this like wine folks, it’s 22 ounces at 13 percent alcohol-by-volume.  Drink with friends, and/or plan on not driving or operating heavy machinery afterwards.”

I reserve my favorite tasting notes for the end, which come courtesy of my friend Wes, who enjoyed the stout with me. And I quote, “If your goal is to get hammered, it’s a good beer. I’m drinking 13 percent beer, motherfarker!”

He meant that in the best possible way.

A- / $9 per 22 oz bottle / stonebrewing.com

Highlights from the 2013 California Beer Festival – Marin

Maybe it was the soothing sounds of ’80s hair metal cover band Metal Shop. Maybe it was the 100 degree heat. Maybe it was the BBQ cookoff. Maybe it was the beer. Whatever the case, the hordes descended on Marin County a few weeks ago to sample the best craft beers made in and around California, and enjoy a little pulled pork along the way.

In lieu of printed material and a forgotten notepad for detailed notetaking, I jotted down a few favorites on a coaster or two. Here are my top picks from the event:

St. Florian’s Brewery IPA – Well balanced, a little more caramel than most IPAs.

Stone Levitation Ale - Always a classic, a rich and delicious amber ale.

Stone RuinTen IPA – Hugely bitter and immensely satisfying.

Island Brewing Company Night Sail – Not sure if that’s the actual name of the brew being poured, but this IPA pours black while drinking amber — a feast for the senses with a nutty fninish.

Anderson Valley Summer Solstice – A limited edition brew from this popular local brewer, bready and satisfying.

Ninkasi Believer Double Red Ale – Oregon’s finest had a line around the park to sample its brews, with good reason. Just an all-around satisfying ruddy ale.

Thanks to the CBF for the invitation!

Review: Konig Ludwig Weissbier

konig ludwig weissbier 89x300 Review: Konig Ludwig WeissbierWarsteiner makes this hefewiezen and is making a push for it this year for Oktoberfest. About the ornately-decorated brew (per the company):

Prince Luitpold of Bavaria carries on the great tradition which has associated the Royal Bavarian Family with the fine art of brewing since 1260.  This classic brew uses select Bavarian barley and wheat malt, the finest Noble Hallertau aroma hops and the original brewer’s yeast strain.  König Ludwig Weissbier is a refreshing, well-balanced, flavorful natural weissbier with a lively fruity aroma and fine sense of spiciness.  König Ludwig Weissbier was honored with the World Beer Award for the world’s best wheat beer in 2008.

Malty and bready, this is a beer with lots of pastry character — including graham crackers and gingerbread. Slightly fruity — apples, mostly — as you drink, with just a touch of baking spice on the nose. Ultimately there’s not a lot of nuance on the finish, as the mouth-filling body takes over and muscles everything else out of the way. Interesting heft for a weissbier. 5.5% abv.

B / $9 per six-pack of 11.2oz. bottles / warsteiner.us

Review: Dogfish Head Festina Peche

dogfish head festina 223x300 Review: Dogfish Head Festina PecheDogfish Head’s Festina Peche is a sour session beer, a “neo-Berliner Weisse” that is brewed with peach concentrate, creating a weird melange of a brew. Sour beers are not normally up my alley, but Festina Peche has charms. The peaches are clear and fruity, and the sour underbelly comes across something like tart cherry juice. The fizzy body gives it the air more of a seltzer or soda than a beer, an effect that is amplified by the very small amount of hops used in its creation. A curious diversion and a fun way to explore a virtually extinct beermaking style, particularly on a hot summer day.

4.5% abv.

B / $11 per four-pack / dogfish.com

Review: Monday Night Brewing Eye Patch Ale, Fu Manbrew, Drafty Kilt

monday night brewing eye patch ale 220x300 Review: Monday Night Brewing Eye Patch Ale, Fu Manbrew, Drafty KiltI may have found a new favorite craft brewery. Monday Night Brewing, based in Atlanta, has four beers in its arsenal, and more on the way. We got to sample three of them, with outstanding results. Thoughts follow.

Monday Night Brewing Eye Patch Ale – This India Pale Ale is just about perfect for the style. While a little light on the bitterness (46 IBUs), it makes up for it with class. Lots of nuttiness, solid caramel (not too sweet), very light coffee bean notes on the back end. Modest, with plenty of hops but balanced and kept in check. Most importantly it’s quite refreshing and brisk, a lively summer afternoon brew and friendly to food, also. 6.2% abv. A

Monday Night Brewing Fu Manbrew – Not a style I normally gravitate to, this Belgian-style wit beer actually brings it home. A rush of pastries — pancakes? — is met by a spicy backup, cinnamon and baking spices, gingerbread and more. Very well balanced, with a modest yet silky body — though perhaps too sweet and not bitter enough for some drinkers. Not me, in this case. Surprisingly lush and gone all too soon. Plus, any beer that quotes G.K. Chesterton on the back label is OK in my book. 5.2% abv. A

Monday Night Brewing Drafty Kilt – A chewy Scotch ale, loaded with coffee notes, dark chocolate, and hazelnuts. This is less of an immediate success than the brews above, but plenty charming and rich. It’s more of a fireside brew, with smoky underpinnings and a long, brooding finish, than a summer sipper. Easy to drink, though. 7.2% abv. A-

each $9 per six-pack / mondaynightbrewing.com

Review: Magic Hat Blind Faith, HiCu, Elder Betty

blind faith Review: Magic Hat Blind Faith, HiCu, Elder BettyMagic Hat never met an ingredient it couldn’t turn into a beer, and this week we look at three new brews from the company — one a relatively straightforward IPA and two unique concoctions that you’ll no doubt find intriguing, at least to read about.

Magic Hat Blind Faith – This IPA is described as “well balanced,” but I get a strong coffee character from it, with chocolate on the finish. These flavors are a bit unusual for IPA, but they don’t dampen my enthusiasm for an otherwise chewy and rounded beer that has a solid slug of bitterness behind it. 6.2% abv. B+

Magic Hat HiCu – HiCu? Hibiscus and cucumber. Hmmm. A sniff brings out — miraculously — both of those elements, and I’m still trying to figure out whether I like it. It’s got two components that are bizarre to start with in a beer, and which arguably have no business being together, either. Ultimately, it’s the cucumber component that really takes over and doesn’t let go, channeling the spirit of the veggie tray into an otherwise indistinct English Ale. 4.2% abv. C

Magic Hat Elder Betty – You can probably guess that elderberry is the oddball ingredient in this Magic Hat brew. It’s a strange one, a Hefeweizen that only hints at the distinctively fruit on the nose. Take a sip and the unmistakable sweetness attacks you much more strongly, balancing out the biscuity notes of the beer with a tart and fruity finish that, well, tastes like elderberries. Hard not to like but difficult to love. Reviewed from can. 5.5% abv. B

magichat.net

Review: Samuel Adams Summer Ale

samuel adams summer ale 79x300 Review: Samuel Adams Summer AleAnd now for some Sam Adams you can actually buy. This seasonal release Summer Ale is a wheat beer brewed with lemon peel and grains of paradise. It’s a combo that works. You can really taste the grains of paradise! (Ha!)

But seriously, the addition of lemon helps to balance out a bready body, lending acidity and some almost tropical fruitiness where it’s needed. Unfortunately this effect tends to dissipate rather soon, leaving behind a beer that is somewhat flat and driven by its wheat component. Refreshing, but drink it fast. And cold.

5.3% abv.

B / $7 per six-pack / samueladams.com

Sampling Samuel Adams Collaboration Beers, “Brewing the American Dream”

DeanandJim 300x200 Sampling Samuel Adams Collaboration Beers, Brewing the American Dream How do you get your tiny brewery noticed? Try partnering with the big guys. That’s what Sam Adams is doing with a new program called Brewing the American Dream, which invites small brewers to Boston to collaborate on something entirely new. These beers are sold in limited release in California and New York, and at the Sam Adams Brewery in Boston. Here’s more detail on the program:

Samuel Adams today announced the introduction of two new collaboration beers with the first recipients of the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Brewing and Business Experienceship, a mentorship opportunity offered as part of the company’s small business micro lending and coaching program.

The new beers are Boston Tea Party Saison, developed in collaboration with Jim Woods, brewer and founder of San Francisco-based MateVeza (www.mateveza.com), and ThreeNinety Bock, created in collaboration with Chris Spinelli and Jon Mervine, brewers and co-founders of Roc Brewing Co. in Rochester, NY (http://rocbrewingco.com). The collaboration beers will have select distribution in California and New York, respectively, and be served in the tour center at the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery.

The beers were the culmination of the two microbreweries’ participation in the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Brewing and Business Experienceship, which like an extended internship, provides one craft brewer annually with hands-on educational and enrichment experiences, and is tailored to the awarded brewery’s business needs. The Experienceship includes a series of trips to the Samuel Adam’s Boston Brewery for extended coaching from various functional areas of The Boston Beer Company such as ingredients procurement, quality assurance, brewing, and sales and distribution, among others. The program also provides access to and funding for industry events.

I got to sample both of the first batch. Some quick thoughts follow.

ThreeNinety Bock (7% abv) is a richly caramel-infused beer loaded with malt and an almost sultry, smoky, woodsy finish. Pleasant, but a little sickly sweet for my tastes. B

Boston Tea Party Saison (7.4% abv) is spicy and fruity, with lots of applesauce, bittersweet orange, and lemon peel. A bit cacophonous, the finish is a bit more inviting, but quite citrus-focused. B

Watch for them — you won’t find beers more unique than these!

Review: Hermitage Brewing Company India Pale Ale Single Hop Series – Magnum

hermitage magnum 300x170 Review: Hermitage Brewing Company India Pale Ale Single Hop Series   MagnumUp next in this unique series of beers from Hermitage is this IPA made exclusively with Magnum hops. At first blush it’s just a very bitter, rather earthy beer, but as you sip it, a curious sweetness is coaxed out of it. It grows and grows on the finish until you realize — it’s pineapple. Hints of dark chocolate come on after.

What a fun little beer. It’s not entirely balanced or refined, but this is a worthy investigation into what the Magnum hop character is all about. Next time I taste pineapple in a beer, I know what I’m going to look for on the label.

7% abv. 70 IBUs.

B+ / $6 per 22 oz. bottle / hermitagebrewing.com

Review: 8 More Hangar 24 Brews

hangar 24 barrel roll 300x225 Review: 8 More Hangar 24 BrewsJesus, these guys don’t quit, and here we have roughly a quarter of Hangar 24’s production line in one mega-post. You should know these guys by now, but if not, well, this is a great intro to some of H24’s brews. All beers below are limited edition (some are only on shelves for a month) unless otherwise noted as year-round bottlings. (Better to just check here for details.)

Hangar 24 Baseball Beer – A pilsner blended with a wheat beer. Slightly cloudy, highly citrus-focused. Tart and slightly sweet, with just a touch of bitterness on the back end. A lively summer brew that doesn’t exactly overflow with complexity, but is simply fun and refreshing to drink. 4.8% abv. B+ / $NA

Hangar 24 California Spring Beer – A seasonal (though, yes, it’s summer) “unique fusion of a hoppy wheat beer brewed with a blended fermentation of Belgian and American yeast.” Super piney when you crack open the bottle. Fresh, brisk, and lively with bitterness. A bit like a lighter version of an IPA, with a more rounded, bready body. Plenty of fun, with a lasting, pleasing finish. 5.2% abv. A- / $NA

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Upcoming: California Beer Festival – Marin County, June 29, 2013

CBF Main Logo 300x213 Upcoming: California Beer Festival   Marin County, June 29, 2013It’s summertime, and we’ve been covering a lot of California-brewed beer lately here at Drinkhacker. If you’ve wondered where you can score some of these more obscure brews, well, here’s your chance! At the upcoming California Beer Festival, Marin County.

We’ll let the CBF tell you the rest of the story:

With more than 70 different craft brews on tap and local participation from breweries such as Hopmonk Tavern and Lagunitas Brewery, ale lovers won’t want to miss this foaming event on Saturday, June 29 from 12:30 to 5 p.m. at Stafford Lake in Novato.

Breweries will be coming from across the state so beer lovers can sample their ales. Some of them include: Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Sierra Nevada, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Anchor Brewing, Hoppy Brewing Company, as well as Hangar 24 Craft Brewery and Ninkasi Brewing Company with huge followings in the craft beer market.

This is the second year the event has been scheduled in the Bay Area. Its festivals in Ventura, Santa Cruz and Claremont/San Dimas sell out every year. “We are excited to be bringing some of the best brews in the country to the North Bay,” said founder Vincenzo Giammanco. “The picturesque lakeside setting nestled between Marin and Sonoma counties is a perfect location for a day of beer sampling, enjoying music, and barbecue. We are looking forward to the same success here as at our other popular festivals through out the state.”

Admission is $40, which includes one craft beer heaven ticket, a souvenir cup and beer sampling. Beer tasting begins at 1 and ends at 4:30 p.m. The event is for adults 21 and over, but children under 12 can accompany their parents for free.

The festival is looking for barbecue teams to participate in its first cook-off. Teams of four, including friends, family, co-workers, are invited to compete for more than $1,000 in prizes. Teams will be judged in four different categories: chicken, beef brisket, pork and beer based on appearance, taste, texture and overall. Guests get to sample the different styles of barbecue (while supplies last).

Proceeds from the California Beer Festival benefit the Gen Giammanco Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial support to student athletes in their pursuit of scholastic and athletic support. A shuttle service will be provided for $3. Tickets and additional info are available at californiabeerfestival.com.

See you there!