Review: Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers

stone chipotleNo guessing about this one. The recipe’s right there in the name.

With this limited edition (summertime) beer, Stone brews up its year-round, peat-smoked porter, made with Magnum and Mt. Hood hops, then adds Mexican chipotle peppers to the bill.

The results are impressive. The nose is big and malty, with notes of leather and hints of smokiness and dark chocolate. The body takes that ball and runs with it, offering up-front notes of whiskey barrel, old wood, and malt, then brings forward a gentle heat. Think jalapeno, but fleeting, just a hit of fire, then it fades away just as fast as it arrived. The beer finishes with a modest bitterness, its hops finally showing their face.

While it’s more of a “just for fun” one-off rather than something you’d drink every day, the spiciness and smoke work very well in a beer like this. Amazing with BBQ.

5.9% abv. Recommended drinking time: within 120 days of bottling.

B+ / $8 per 22 oz. bottle / stonebrewing.com

Tasting Beers and Stout Ice Cream at Peter B’s, Monterey, California

A recent trip to Monterey, California took us to Peter B’s Brewpub, back behind the Portola Hotel. A rowdy place full of pool tables and TVs blasting sports, it’s also home to Monterey’s biggest brewpub operation, with about a dozen beers on tap at any one time.

This time we came in search of something special, a not-yet-released ice cream flavored with Peter B’s own stout. Made by local icecreamateur Butch Adams (pictured below), who runs a small operation just off of Cannery Row called Kai Lee Creamery, it’s quite a treat, very mild up front, with a modest chocolate and nutty character to it — not quite stout, but not coffee or chocolate either. Lovely and restrained, I can’t think of a better way to end a session of sampling craft beers — unless you maybe drop a scoop of this into an IPA. A-

While we were there, we naturally sampled the five “always on” brews that Peter B’s offers, plus a couple of barrel-aged seasonal releases. Some quick thoughts follow on each of the beers.

Belly Up Blonde – A classic blonde ale, quite rich and malty. Fresh and chewy, with a slight oatmeal character. 5% abv. B+

Fort Ord Wheat – Unfiltered wheat ale. A bit musty, this is missing the bracing citrus of good witbiers. A little muddy on the back end. 5.8% abv. B-

Inclusion Amber Ale – Nice body on this, a good bridge to Peter B’s stronger brews. Mocha notes are prominent here, with some decent hops, though it’s far from bitter at 35 IBUs. Dried fruit and mushroom notes on the finish add interest. 5.13% abv. B+

Legend of Laguna IPA – The big guy (60 to 80 IBUs, depending on where you look). Ample citrus all around, with a ton of bitterness behind it. Hang in there for the evergreen finish, plusa touch of rum raisin. 6.5% abv. B+

Stout Resistance – The stout used in the ice cream, you get big coffee and cream notes on this black brew. It’s mouth coating and rich, but a lot of mushiness in the body mars this otherwise capable stout. 5.7% abv. B

Scotch Ale (seasonal) – Nutty with roasted grains and a slug of raisins. Nice balance here, and it’s quite different and fun. A-

Port Barrel Aged Stout (seasonal) – A real change of pace. Extremely cherry-fueled from start to finish, with a smattering of plums and raisins. Big body with a bracing, bitter finish that works well with the lightly sour body. B+

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Review: Deschutes Brewery Twilight Summer Ale (2014)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe last encountered Deschutes’ summer seasonal way back in 2010. Time for an update!

This warm-weather sipper toes the line between malty and hoppy, using Amarillo hops to bolster what might otherwise become a bit muddy on the palate. Up front the American Blonde-style ale offers some light notes of roasted apples and hazelnut, eventually fading as the hoppier elements come through. Some citrus peel on the finish adds balance and nuance to the somewhat chewy mid-palate, but the overall impact is on the milder side, just as you’d expect from a summer brew.

5% abv. Available through September.

B+ / $9 per six-pack / deschutesbrewery.com

Review: Firemans Brew Blonde Beer, Brunette Beer, and Redhead Ale

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We last encountered Firemans Brew five long years ago — we mistakenly gave them an unattributed apostrophe back then — so with summer upon us, a fresh look is in order. The company still makes three hair-color-themed beers, though the “Brewnette” has been reformulated with a newish name (a straightforward “Brunette”) and less alcohol.

Fresh thoughts on the So-Cal based “The Original Firemans Brew” follow.

Firemans Brew Blonde Beer – A classic pilsner lager. A big body elevates this over your typical “baseball game” brew, with a chewy, sourdough bread core studded with a touch of pine and a hint of brown sugar. Some caramel notes emerge on the finish, but mostly it’s a crisp and clean slugger from start to finish. 5% abv. A-

Firemans Brew Brunette Beer – A burly double bock, with considerably more alcohol than the other brews in this lineup. Lots of malt on this one builds up layered notes of coffee, chocolate, and chicory, atop a sultry, creamy base. Built for fans of bigger bodied brews. 8% abv. B+

Firemans Brew Redhead Ale – A red amber ale that will offend no one, this malty, woodsy beer is built with a moderate body and a chewy, almost nutty character on the palate. The finish comes along with strong notes of fresh-baked bread and a touch of fresh coffee notes. Harmless. 5.5% abv. B

firemansbrew.com

Review: Deschutes Brewery Pine Mountain, Armory, & Cinder Cone Beers

deschutes armory

Three new brews from Bend, Oregon-based Deschutes are hitting the market — all three on a year-round basis.

Deschutes Brewery Pine Mountain Pilsner – A surprisingly malty pilsner, Pine Mountain has a big, bready body, with notes of peanuts, peaches, banana, and honey. The finish takes on an earthy, somewhat mushroomy character. There’s fruit here — those peaches are stronger than you might expect — but the heavy maltiness dulls this beer’s crisp finish a bit. 5.2% abv. B+

Deschutes Brewery Armory XPA – “Experimental Pale Ale,” made with five kinds of hops. Initially woodsy and piney, as it warms up it reveals a surprisingly sweet and orangey character, almost like citrus jellies on the finish. There’s good balance between the two, but the sweetness becomes a little wearisome after a pint or so. 5.9% abv. B+

Deschutes Brewery Cinder Cone Red Ale – A traditional red ale, this dark brew offers tons of richness, including notes from the forest, brown/burnt sugar notes, and plenty of bitter root character, particularly on the finish. A bit muddy, even chalky, this drinks like a burlier winter brew. Named after rocky lava formations… makes sense. 5.3% abv. B

each $4 per 22 oz. bottle / deschutesbrewery.com

Free Tickets to ChouffeFest New York and Washington D.C.

Howdy! Like Belgian craft beers and live in New York or Washington D.C.? Well, we’ve got something sweet (and bitter) for you!

Drinkhacker is giving away two pairs of tickets to ChouffeFest, which hits New York’s Brooklyn Bazaar on 6/19 and Washington D.C.’s TOOLBOX on 6/21. You can win a pair of tickets, which include entrance to the event featuring Belgian-style Chouffe beer tastings, delicious food, live music, and plenty of gnomified merrymaking.

You must be 21 or older to enter (and attend). To enter, please send an email to contest2@drinkhacker.com and provide your first and last name, your city of choice (NYC or Washington, D.C.), primary e-mail address, and what Chouffe beer you’re most looking forward to tasting.

All entries must be received by 6/17 at noon PDT. Only one entry per person. There will be one winner chosen for each city.

More info…  

Chouffe Fest celebrates Chouffe’s Belgian craft beers, which rumor has it, were hand-crafted by magical gnomes and passed in secret to Chouffe’s founders in the 1970s. Inspired by this mystical tale, Chouffe Fest invites guests to step into the imaginary world of the Chouffe gnomes, which includes an eight-foot-tall “gnome throne” photo booth and giant, playable versions of checkers, Jenga and Connect Four. Check out this video for more event details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C7EvJviWds

Chouffe Fest will proudly feature the following Belgian craft brews from Chouffe:

  • La Chouffe is a Belgian blonde ale with a hazy golden yellow color with full white head. La Chouffe boasts aromas of peppery spice and flavors of candy sweetness and fruity esters, followed by a creamy dry finish in this highly carbonated and gently warming ale. It contains 8% alcohol by volume (ABV) and a Rate Beer rating of 98.
  • Mc Chouffe is a Belgian-Scottish dark ale that is rich brown in color with a light tawny head. Featuring deep aromas of chocolate, toffee and caramel with rich nutty and spicy flavors of almonds, cinnamon and nutmeg, Mc Chouffe has a dry, creamy finish with noticeable warmth. It contains 8% ABV and a Rate Beer rating of 97.
  • Houblon Chouffe is a Belgian IPA Triple that is golden yellow with a delicate white head. Featuring grassy and citrus aromas from Amarillo, Tomahawk and Saaz hops with slight aromatics of clove; biscuit malt flavors are followed by a touch of honey then a dry, crisp finish marked with a touch of orange. Houblon Chouffe contains 9% ABV and boasts a Rate Beer rating of 99.

Chouffe Fest New York will take place Thursday, June 19 from 7 – 11 p.m. at the Brooklyn Bazaar located at 165 Banker St., Brooklyn NY 11222. Tickets are on sale for $10 each at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chouffe-fest-new-york-tickets-11652804853

Chouffe Fest D.C. will take place Saturday, June 21 from 7 – 11 p.m. at TOOLBOX D.C., located in Dupont Circle at 1627 (rear) Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20009.
Tickets are on sale for $10 each at: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/chouffe-fest-washington-dc-tickets-11652963327

Guests must be 21 and over to attend all Chouffe Fest events. For more information about Chouffe Fest, visit http://www.chouffefest.com

Upcoming: California Beer Festival Marin County 2014

Who’s ready for brews? I’ll be here — so come on by, enjoy a few craft beers, and say hi while ’80s cover bands pump out the jams.

Don’t miss the California Beer Festival Marin County on Saturday, June 28 from 12:30 to 5 p.m at beautiful Stafford Lake in Novato with 100 craft brews on tap featuring breweries from throughout the state including local favorites Lagunitas Brewing Company and Hopmonk Tavern. This is the third year for the annual event.

Attendees announced so far include: Six Rivers Brewery, Stone Brewing Company, Iron Springs Pub and Brewery, Broken Drum Brewery, Bear Republic Brewing Co., Big Sky Brewing Company, Altamont Beer Works, Bison Brewing, Carneros Brewing, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, Day of the Dead Beer and many more. Beer sampling will be from 1 to 4:30 p.m. (VIP tickets get you in early.)

Information and tickets are available at CaliforniaBeerFestival.com. VIP tickets are $65 each. General admission is $40. Sliders and suds tickets are $55, with designated driver tickets available for $25. Children under 12 are free, but must be accompanied by an adult.

Be there!

Review: Stone Enjoy By 07.04.14 IPA

stone enjoy byAs always, Stone’s latest ultra-fresh bottling has less than a month to go before you can no longer “enjoy” it (35 days after bottling)… ostensibly, anyway. In keeping with the past iterations of this long-running series, this beer is bursting with liquid pine character.

But 07.04.14 is balanced just a touch by some hints of caramel, lemon peel, and Asian spices (Stone’s tasting notes suggest peaches and tropical fruit, but I don’t much get those).

Whatever the little touches are, by and large it’s that huge hoppy pine character that positively spews forth from start to finish, as “Enjoy By” brews always provide. With 13 varieties of hops used (Ahtanum, Super Galena, Simcoe, Amarillo, Delta, Target, Calypso, Cascade, Citra, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Motueka, and Helga) and 88 IBUs, one would hope so.

9.4% abv.

A- / $8 per 22 oz. bottle / enjoyby.stonebrewing.com

Review: Starr Hill Whiter Shade of Pale Ale, Soul Shine, and Little Red Roostarr (2014)

SH__WhiterShade_22oz_Bottle_thumbThree new brews from Starr Hill, arriving just in time for summer barbecues. Thoughts follow.

Starr Hill Whiter Shade of Pale Ale White IPA – A hybrid of Belgian wheat beer and India Pale Ale, a bit like one of my current favorite brews, Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. Made with wheat and two-row malt along with Cascade, Simcoe, Columbus, and Falconer’s Flight hops, it’s a nicely hoppy beer that still exercises some restraint with its bitterness (45 IBUs). The attack starts moderately big hop notes along with some orange fruit, quickly leading to a very pleasant and rounded body. Chewy on the palate, the wheat component makes for a more breadlike IPA than you may be accustomed to, but this is ultimately quite fulfilling and satisfying. The finish is soft and easy, more soothing than bracing like a classic IPA. All in all, an excellent brew. 7.5% abv. A / $10 per 22 oz. bottle

Starr Hill Soul Shine Belgian-Style Pale Ale – An “Americanized” Belgian ale, which means adding American hops (Falconer’s Flight, Cascade, Simcoe, and Columbus) and bringing it down to 5.2% abv. Though it’s specifically designed for lighter, summer drinking, the beer feels a bit watery, and super fizzy to boot. Relatively flavorless up front, I pick up very basic citrus notes interwoven with baked bread character. The body is short and quickly fades, however, leaving behind a minerally taste reminiscent of beer-spiked Perrier. Not my favorite in this batch. 5.2% abv. B- / $NA per six-pack

Starr Hill Little Red Roostarr Coffee Cream Stout (2014) – The odd man out in this otherwise summery collection of brews, Little Red Roostarr is an inky milk stout that offers the coffee ground and bittersweet chocolate notes you’d expect from this style, with a very modest hop character (East Kent Goldings) to it. What’s lacking is the “cream” component: Red Roostarr is fairly thin in the body, which ultimately takes the beer to a lackluster finish that has more chewy graininess in it than I care to see in a beer of this style. Compare to 2013’s release. 5.8% abv. B / $7 per 22 oz. bottle

starrhill.com

Review: Six Ciders from Tieton Cider Works

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It’s time for a gaggle of apple ciders from Tieton Cider Works, based in Tieton, Washington. TCW makes at least 10 different products. Here we review a half dozen, all spins on the classic apple cider formula, and arranged from dryest to sweetest. Enjoy.

Tieton Cider Works Tieton Blend Cider Dry – English style cider, bone dry with barely a hint of sweetness. This is a tough one for those more accustomed to fruitier, sweeter ciders, and even after putting on my dryest of dry white wine hats, I couldn’t cut through it. Herbs and minerals abound here, but the overall effect is like a weak sauvignon blanc. 7% abv. C

Tieton Cider Works Yakima Valley Dry Hopped Cider Dry – Dry cider blended with local hops. Cider plus beer is known as a “snakebite,” but I’ve never seen anyone actually drink one. Here, the sweet, sour, and bitter are combine to create an initially off-putting concoction, but over time your palate adjusts and reveals a complex and unique brew. The sour apple notes remain the heaviest component, the hops largely blowing off to show themselves primarily as a hint on the finish. 6.9% abv. C+

Tieton Cider Works Wild Washington Apple Cider Semi-Dry – Aptly described, with tart and sweet elements. Lots of mineral notes here, along with an earthy (“wild,” perhaps) pungency on the nose. This is a cider for those who are OK with sweeter stuff, but who might want to experience a somewhat dryer beverage from time to time. 7% abv. B

Tieton Cider Works Apricot Cider Semi-Dry – Blended with apricots, naturally. Quite fruity, with strong overtones of fresh and dried apricots. Seems sweeter than “semi-dry” would indicate, with a biting acidity on the finish. The simplest, but perhaps the best, of the bunch. 6.9% abv. B+

Tieton Cider Works Apple Cherry Cider Semi-Sweet – Plenty of cherry flavor up front here, so much so that it almost drinks like pomegranate/cherry juice. Heavy sour notes on the finish abate over time, leaving behind the essence of fruit, with an almost mineral edge to it. Not bad. 6.9% abv. B

Tieton Cider Works Blossom Nectar Cider Sweet – Includes apple blossoms in the mix. Quite sweet, and indeed very floral, with a pleasant balance between tart apple and the perfumy, rose-scented blossoms. The perfume does take on a “grandma’s house” note over time, particularly as it warms up, but hey, you’re drinking cider, so stop moaning. 7% abv. B+

$42.60 as a mixed six-pack of 500ml bottles (one of each of the above) / tietonciderworks.com