Black Butte XXIX and Double Bastard – Bigger, Longer, Uncut

It’s been awhile since I posted a beer review. I don’t know what happened to the Vendome Beer Panel – they stopped doing them (or they stopped inviting me to participate). I guess that horrible task of sampling free beer is over.

Here are reviews of two limited release beers. Please read responsibly.

Black Butte XXIX: (2017) Deschutes Brewing, Bend, OR. 12.2% ABV.
This is Deschutes’ 29th birthday reserve. It’s an imperial porter brewed with cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne, then 50% aged in bourbon and rum barrels. [NOTE: refer to previous posts for reviews of Black Butte XXVIII (March 28, 2017) and Black Butte XXVII (March 5, 2017).]

Black Butte XXIX pours black with a ¼” light tan head that fades rapidly to a thick ring. The first whiff is spiced rum, then spiced rum, followed by more spiced rum with sweet chocolate, vanilla, bourbon and cherry.

The flavor is sweet rum, chocolate, coconut, vanilla, dark fruit, and cinnamon with cherry at the end. The cayenne is slightly noticeable in the aftertaste, giving just a bit of heat in the throat. The bourbon is very subdued, almost non-existent, but the rum is right in your face, along with strong notes of dark chocolate.

The mouth feel is thick and silky smooth with medium to low carbonation. The high alcohol content is completely absent in the flavor (too bad), but very noticeable in its effect. As it warms there is even more aroma of rum. The flavor is a bit sweeter with rum notes even more prevelant. The cinnamon is subtle, but makes an appearance (not so much when cold). The dark fruit (raisin, plum) fades a bit, and a little coffee emerges. The alcohol is still not apparent.

Black Butte XXIX is excellent! It is complex and very enjoyable. This is an impressive beer; good job, Deschutes!

I sampled XXIX on August 20, 2017 from a 22 oz. bomber that was bottled on June 12, 2017. The bottle cost $16.49 at Total Wine.

Double Bastard – Bigger, Longer, Uncut: Arrogant Brewing, Escondido, CA. 13% ABV.
First a very short history lesson – Arrogant Brewing split off from Stone Brewing in 2015. I believe Arrogant Brewing pushes the boundaries and makes the more “over the top” ales, including Double Bastard (an excellent Strong Ale). Today’s beer is Double Bastard Ale aged in Islay Scotch Whisky barrels. I will refer to it as “BLU” (Bigger, Longer, Uncut).

BLU looks like regular Double Bastard, but that’s where the similarity ends. It pours a deep amber color with a ½” beige head that fades after about a minute to a substantial ring. The aroma is smoky Scotch, sweet, tobacco – it smells like you’re walking into a tobacco shop.

It tastes sweet with notes of chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar and tobacco, followed by smoke/peat, Scotch Whisky, and smoky chocolate, with a lingering smoky/peaty essence in the aftertaste. As this beer warms, the aroma intensifies – close your eyes and you would think you’re sniffing a shot of Scotch. In the flavor, however, the smoke seems to fade, or is overtaken by sweetness, to wit, vanilla and chocolate (especially dark chocolate). The peat subsides and the sweet notes of chocolate and toffee take over. This seems counter-intuitive to me – I would think the peat/smoke would become more pronounced as the beer warms, but it’s just the opposite as the complexity of the underlying beer shines forth.

The body and mouth feel is thick and smooth. Carbonation is on the low side. As the beer warms (60°+), alcohol becomes noticeable late on the palate, but is not hot or unpleasant. In fact, I would opine that the alcohol is well hidden in the flavor (but not in it’s effect!).

Double Bastard – Bigger, Longer, Uncut is all about the Scotch. At first I was a little put off by it (the Scotch), but the more I drank it, the more I liked it. In my opinion, this is a beer that should not be consumed ice cold. Let this one warm up to cellar temperatures (55° – 60° F) to really appreciate the nuances and complexities. Double Bastard is a huge beer with huge flavor, and is able to stand up to the intensity of the Islay Scotch barrels.

I sampled BLU on August 27, 2017, from a 22 oz. bomber, given to me by my neighbor and good friend, Rob Lansley. It was bottled on October 14, 2016, so it had been aging for almost a year. I’m a little surprised that the Scotch flavor is still so pronounced after nearly a year in the bottle.

So there you have it. I highly recommend Black Butte XXIX. Anyone who appreciates a good imperial stout would enjoy this beer. I don’t drink much rum, but it really adds additional character and depth to this beer. I can also recommend Double Bastard – Bigger, Longer, Uncut, but with one admonition – you may not like it if you don’t like Scotch Whisky. As I stated, I don’t care much for Scotch, but after my initial disdain, I really enjoyed this big beer (thank you, Rob!). In fact, I got another bomber ($11.99) to share with . . . anyone interested? This is a great candidate for aging – maybe I’ll get one more bottle to age for a few years in my cellar.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get off your couch and go buy some good beer. Both are available at Total Wine right now, but are limited release and will be gone soon. Don’t miss out. (Caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers, don’t bother.)

Sláinte!

Vendome Beer Panel – April 27, 2017

The latest Vendome Beer Panel was a little different. Each member of the panel chose a beer for tasting. Here are reviews of six beers from five different breweries. All of them are good, but none earned a top score of “5” on my scorecard.

If these reviews intrigue you or pique your interest, take a trip to Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton and use my code, “VEN10C” or mention my name “CARL” to get a 10% discount off the price. Enough of the fine print though, here’s what you want to know.

The Vendome rating system:
0 – I wouldn’t offer this beer to my worst enemy.
1 – I wouldn’t pay for this beer, but it’s alright.
2 – Tasty, but easily forgettable.
3 – I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.
4 – I can see myself buying this beer and ordering seconds.
5 – Just hook up the beer straight to my veins.

Propeller-Head: Unsung Brewing, Anaheim, CA. 6.0% ABV. Rating – 4
This is a coffee infused amber ale. It pours a medium amber color with a light beige head. The aroma is sweet coffee. Propeller-Head has a light coffee flavor, slightly sweet and caramel, with no bitterness noted. There is a well balanced sweet but hoppy aftertaste. Ultimately this is all about the coffee: it predominates the aroma and flavor, and lingers in the aftertaste, but it’s not too strong.

Coffee beers are very popular right now and it seems that every brewery is making them. Some are good, but some aren’t to my liking. I think coffee works well in the darker beers, but not so well in the lighter colored beers (especially IPAs). Propeller-Head is very good. The caramel flavors in this amber ale stand up well to the coffee, and make for a very pleasant beer.

Bursted Cascade: El Segundo Brewing, El Segundo, CA. 6.0% ABV. Rating – 3
Bursted Cascade is a single hop IPA. It pours a golden, slight orange color, with a white foamy head that rapidly fades to a 1/8” ring around the perimeter. The aroma is citrus (as expected from Cascade), but not real strong. The flavor is grapefruit, but again, not too strong. The body is fairly light, with medium carbonation.

Bursted Cascade is a very drinkable, refreshing, thirst quenching beer. I would describe it as on the light side as far as hoppiness for an IPA. The alcohol content is fairly low at 6%, so it’s easy drinking. Overall, it’s a nice beer, but I think it could use some additional bitterness and hoppiness.

Knuckle Sandwich: Bootleggers Brewing, Fullerton, CA. 10% ABV. Rating – 4
This is the beer I chose for the Panel. Knuckle Sandwich is a Double IPA with a very high alcohol content. It pours a deep amber color with a thick beige colored head. The aroma is bittersweet – caramel malt with citrus notes. The flavor is citrus and pine, followed by malty sweet caramel. The malty sweetness lingers in the aftertaste, but is balanced by the bitterness.

Knuckle Sandwich is a typical DIPA, in that it can accurately be described as bittersweet. The malty/caramel sweetness stands out, but it’s not cloying or overly sweet. The body is full to heavy, and the carbonation level is medium. The alcohol level is high, but not noticeable in the flavor. Be careful, because a 22 oz. bomber can do some substantial damage. Overall, this is an excellent beer.

Hop Juice: Left Coast Brewing, San Clemente, CA. 10% ABV. Rating – 4
This is a triple IPA. Hop Juice pours light orange with a white head that persists for about a minute before fading to a substantial ring. The aroma is slightly bitter, but not overpowering. The flavor starts malty sweet, followed by a very nice grapefruit that fades to a clean citrus bitterness. The body and carbonation level are medium.

Hop Juice is 10% ABV, but that high alcohol content is even more well hidden than Knuckle Sandwich. This is quite easy to drink and overall, is a very good beer.

Asylum: Left Coast Brewing, San Clemente, CA. 11.8% ABV. Rating – 4
I think Left Coast Brewing likes to make big beers. Asylum is a Belgian style Tripel. I don’t typically drink Belgian style ales, but tend to tolerate, or even like, dubbels and tripels. This one is no exception, and I found that I really liked Asylum.

Asylum pours light orange with a white head. The aroma has the typical Belgian spicy sweet notes. The flavor is very sweet and fruity, with the Belgian yeast spiciness very subdued, and only in the aftertaste. The body is heavy with a thick mouth feel, but is mitigated by the high carbonation level. I found this fruity Belgian style ale very pleasant to drink.

Imperial Russian Stout: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA. 10.6% ABV. Rating – 4
Oh how I love dark beers, and just about anything from Stone Brewing. Imperial Russian Stout pours black as midnight with a cocoa colored head that fades to a 1/8” ring around the perimeter. The aroma is sweet, chocolate and brown sugar. The flavor is sweet as well – chocolate, dark fruit and raisin – but also brings some bitter, roasty coffee. The aftertaste is chocolate, vanilla and sweet, but with some balancing bitterness and lingering coffee roastiness.

The body is heavy and the mouth feel is smooth, thick and viscous. Alcohol content is high, but is only slightly noticeable on the palate. This is one of the great non-barrel aged stouts available. I love Stone IRS and highly recommend it.

Well, that’s it for now, beer lovers. I can recommend all six of these beers (caveat: Bursted Cascade is nice, but doesn’t stand out from the hundreds of other IPAs on the market). I would say my favorite of the bunch is the Stone IRS. If you have an interest in drinking any of these, they are available for purchase at Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton. Be sure to mention my discount code, “VEN10C” or my name, “CARL” to get a 10% discount off the purchase price.

Sláinte!

Vendome Beer Panel – April 13, 2017 (Continued)

As I mentioned in the Vendome Beer Panel review of April 13, 2017, one of the beers we were supposed to review was Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout from Elysian Brewing. Unfortunately Split Shot was not delivered in time and the Beer Panel was unable to review it with the other Elysian brews that evening. Fortuitously, it was delivered the following day to Vendome and I purchased a bottle for tasting and review. Here is what you want to know about Split Shot.  Please read responsibly!
(Note: See my previous post, dated April 15, 2017 for an explanation of the Vendome rating system.)

Split Shot: Elysian Brewing, Seattle WA. 6.0% ABV  28 IBU   Rating – 4
This Milk Stout pours black with a ½” tan head that fades in about 30 seconds to a substantial ring and very thin cap. The aroma is sweet coffee, mocha and chocolate. The flavor follows suit – coffee, mocha and chocolate, fading to a nice sweet “coffee with cream” aftertaste. There is very little bitterness. The flavor is sweet, but not overly so or out of balance, and is to be expected with the lactose. The body is fairly thin, with medium carbonation.

Espresso is a very strong, dark coffee, but the addition to this stout is subdued, mellow, and well balanced with the lactose. The coffee flavor dominates, but is not overwhelming. I would like to see Elysian put this on Nitro – it would be awesome! Overall, Split Shot is very good and I highly recommend it. Well done, Elysian!

If this description interests you, go over to Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton to purchase Split Shot. Be sure to use my code, “VEN10C” or mention my name “CARL” to get a 10% discount off the price.

As an aside, but related to this review, I met the man responsible for Split Shot when I was in Seattle (April 2016).  For several years, Steve Luke worked for Elysian Brewing, developing  recipes and experimental beers.  Split Shot and Space Dust IPA are two of his creations.  In January 2016, Steve opened his own brewery, Cloudburst Brewing, located two blocks from the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle.  See Mac’s Brew News – April 25, 2016 for additional information about my visits to Cloudburst Brewing.

Steve Luke, the Brewmaster at Cloudburst Brewing. Keep up the good work, Steve!

Mac with a Jump Sturdy (Milk Stout on nitrogen) at Cloudburst Brewing

Well, that’s it for now, but check back soon – more beer reviews in the next couple of weeks, and I hope to get out a news letter very soon as well.  Now go buy some (Elysian) beer.

Sláinte!

Vendome Beer Panel – April 13, 2017

Four of the five beers sampled by the panel on April 13, 2017 are from Elysian Brewing in Seattle, WA. The fifth beer was supposed to be Split Shot, also from Elysian, but the distributer did not get it there in time for the Beer Panel. The final beer of the evening was chosen for review by yours truly.

If these reviews intrigue you or pique your interest, take a trip to Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton and use my code, “VEN10C” or mention my name “CARL” to get a 10% discount off the price. Enough of the fine print; let’s get to what you all paid for, the low down on these beers.  Oh, and please read responsibly!

The rating system:
0 – I wouldn’t offer this beer to my worst enemy.
1 – I wouldn’t pay for this beer, but it’s alright.
2 – Tasty, but easily forgettable.
3 – I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.
4 – I can see myself buying this beer and ordering seconds.
5 – Just hook up the beer straight to my veins.

Saison Elysee: 6.4% ABV  Rating – 3
Saison Elysee is a Belgian style Farmhouse Ale brewed with cumin. It pours a clear golden orange with a light ivory colored head that fades immediately. The aroma is sweet with spicy/fruity notes. The flavor is sweet and earthy with strong spicy and estery overtones from the Belgian yeast. The sweetness is not overwhelming, but that signature Belgian flavor is the foremost impression. This fades to a lingering slight bitterness. The body and mouth feel is medium with a high-medium carbonation level.

Overall, I would describe Saison Elysee as a typical Belgian style ale – spicy sweet. I don’t know what cumin smells or tastes like (although I understand it has a very strong flavor and aroma), so I don’t know how it affects this beer. I rated this in the middle of the scale because it’s decent beer, but is just another Belgian ale to me (not bad, not great). Caveat: I don’t particularly care for Belgian style beers and rarely drink them; keep that in mind when considering my opinion.

Day Glow IPA: 7.4% ABV  62 IBU  Rating – 4
This IPA pours a slightly hazy golden yellow with a white head that rapidly fades to a thin ring around the perimeter. The aroma is tangerine with a little grapefruit. The flavor is grapefruit and orange, with a hint of sweetness. The aftertaste is the same, with a very pleasant and lingering bitterness. The body and mouth feel is medium with a medium carbonation level.

Day Glow IPA is very good. It features the very popular Mosaic hop variety, and really pulls it off quite nicely, setting it apart from a lot of the other Mosaic IPAs out there. It’s not a bitterness bomb, but the hoppy flavors really explode in the mouth. Well done, Elysian!

Space Dust IPA: 8.2% ABV  73 IBU  Rating – 4
This is a big American style IPA. Although Elysian doesn’t describe it as a Double IPA, the high alcohol content and big malty flavor immediately made me think DIPA. It pours clear golden yellow with a white head that fades rapidly. The aroma is slightly malty sweet with tropical fruit notes from the Citra hops. The flavor is bittersweet, like a DIPA, with notes of citrus and grapefruit. The aftertaste is also slightly sweet, from the malt backbone and the Citra dry hopping. The mouth feel and body is medium with a medium carbonation level.

Overall, Space Dust is a very good, but dangerous beer. The 73 IBU are well balanced so it’s not overly bitter. The high alcohol content (8.2%) is not detectable in the flavor, which makes it easy to drink (but be careful – you will get your money’s worth). This beer has all the markers of a Double IPA, but is not labeled as such.

Since I tasted them side-by-side, I offer a brief comparison between Day Glow and Space Dust. This was my first taste of Day Glow but I have had Space Dust on several previous occasions. Day Glow is lower in IBU, but the hoppy aromas and flavors stand out more than Space Dust. The malty character is far more developed in Space Dust. The citrus notes are much greater in Day Glow. Alcohol content is high in both IPAs, but is slightly higher in Space Dust (though not noticeable in the flavor or aroma of either beer). Both beers are the same price. I enjoyed Day Glow a little more due to the hoppy nature, but I highly recommend both.

Dragonstooth Stout: 8.1% ABV  56 IBU  Rating – 3
This is an Imperial Oatmeal Stout. Dragonstooth pours black with a tan head that remained for a short time. The aroma is sweet chocolate, coffee, dark fruit. The flavor follows suit – bittersweet chocolate, dark fruit (black cherry, plum), fig, a little coffee and some grainy bitterness. The 56 IBU is well hidden as this is all about the malt. The body and mouth feel is low-heavy and smooth. The carbonation level is moderate.

Dragonstooth is a nice oatmeal stout, but doesn’t stand out from the field. I think it could use a little more roasted grain to bring out the coffee notes. The oatmeal produces a nice slickness and viscosity in the mouth.

Chernyy Medved: Valiant Brewing, Orange, CA. 13% ABV  Rating – 5
This is a Russian Imperial Stout with cherries and vanilla (Note: Chernyy is the Russian term for black or dark). It pours midnight black with a cocoa head that fades to a 1/8” ring. The aroma is sweet cherry with a hint of chocolate. The flavor is cherry, bitter chocolate and roasty. The 13% alcohol is well hidden in the flavor, but warms the throat on the way down. The aftertaste is cherry that lingers forever. Chernyy Medved is heavy and thick (think 90 wt gear oil) – use a spatula to get it out of the bottle. Carbonation is low, commensurate with the style.

As Chernyy Medved warms, the chocolate flavor becomes more evident, but the cherry aftertaste lingers, along with a nice balancing bitterness. Even as it warms, the alcohol flavor remains hidden.

I really like Chernyy Medved. It’s a thick, chocolate-cherry dessert beer. Don’t go to this one after you mowed the lawn on a hot day, however. Instead, sip it on an afternoon or evening when you don’t have any other plans; you’ll enjoy the journey – after all, at 13% ABV, it will get you where you want to go.

If my description of Chernyy Medved appeals to you, then you better get it soon. Unfortunately, Valiant Brewing closed two weeks ago, so once the current supply of this beer is exhausted, it will not be available again.

Well, there you have it. Elysian Brewing offers a nice variety of very good beers. Day Glow and Space Dust are exceptionally good IPAs.  Valiant Brewing, unfortunately, is no longer in business, but Chernyy Medved is certainly a jewel in their crown and I highly recommend it (Note: refer to my Vendome Beer Panel review of 02-16-2017 for my opinion of another highly recommended Valiant brew, Coconut Imperial Brown Ale). If you want to give any of these beers (or all of them) a try, go to Vendome in Fullerton to purchase. Be sure to use code “VEN10C” or mention my name “CARL” to get a 10% discount off the price of these beers.

Cheers!

 

Vendome Beer Panel – March 30, 2017

The Vendome Beer Panel sampled a variety of beers from five different breweries on Thursday March 30, 2017. If these reviews intrigue you or pique your interest, head over to Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton and use my code, “VEN10C” to get a 10% discount off the price.

The rating system:
0 – I wouldn’t offer this beer to my worst enemy.
1 – I wouldn’t pay for this beer, but it’s alrigjht.
2 – Tasty, but easily forgettable.
3 – I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.
4 – I can see myself buying this beer and ordering seconds.
5 – Just hook up the beer straight to my veins.

GT Gose: Anderson Valley Brewing, Boonville, CA. 4.2% ABV. Rating – 2
This beer pours a clear straw yellow with a ½” white head that persists throughout the session. The aroma is tart, citrus, with just a touch of sulfur. The flavor follows the nose – citrus (mainly lime) and tart. Think of Sprite, but a little tart.   These flavors fade to a very slight malty aftertaste. GT Gose is well carbonated and light bodied.

I gave GT Gose a “2” rating because I just don’t care much for the style. This beer would be good on a hot summer day – it’s light and refreshing, low in alcohol and easy to drink. I gravitate to dark beers, big beers and IPAs. This was too much like drinking Sprite. (Note: GT Gose is Anderson Valley’s take on the classic cocktail, Gin & Tonic. With that in mind, I would say they’ve done a pretty good job, as it’s refreshing like a gin and tonic and easy to drink.)

Vanilla Porter: Latitude 33 Brewing, Vista, CA. 6.5% ABV   35 IBU. Rating – 3
This porter pours black with a ½” tan head of thick foam. The aroma is vanilla with hints of caramel. The flavor is vanilla and bitter chocolate with some grainy bitterness. The aftertaste is a lingering vanilla and bitterness that lingers. Vanilla Porter has medium carbonation, body and mouth feel. Although vanilla leads the flavor charge, it is not overwhelming nor does it taste imitation.

I like Vanilla Porter; it’s good beer. However, it does not stand out from the crowd. It’s just another good porter.

Broken Skull IPA: El Segundo Brewing, El Segundo, CA. 6.7% ABV   67 IBU. Rating – 3
Broken Skull pours light golden with a light cream-colored head that lasts throughout the session. The aroma is citrus and grapefruit with some mango. The flavor is bittersweet, almost like a DIPA. It’s not real bitter – it has a nice malty foundation that hides the 67 IBU. The hoppy character is subdued citrus and grapefruit. The aftertaste is melon/mango, and bittersweet. This IPA is well carbonated with medium body.

Broken Skull IPA is good beer, but it’s pretty mellow; I would categorize it as an East Coast style IPA (more balanced, malty, not so hoppy). It’s an easy drinking IPA, but I think it would benefit from additional dry hopping (disclaimer: I am a hophead; keep that in mind when considering my comments).

Rocco Red: Bootlegger’s Brewing, Fullerton, CA. 7.1% ABV   37 IBU. Rating – 4
This American Red ale pours dark amber with a creamy beige head. The aroma is malty, slightly sweet with just a note of Cascade hops. The flavor is malty, earthy, slightly sweet, but well balanced with some hop bitterness. The malty sweetness lingers in the aftertaste. This red ale has low-medium carbonation and medium body.

Rocco Red is a well-balanced American Red/Amber Ale brewed right here in Fullerton. Well done, Bootlegger’s!

Imperial Stout: Mother Earth Brew Co., Vista, CA 8.1% ABV. Rating – 3
This stout pours black with a ¼” light tan head. The aroma is chocolate, malty and sweet. The flavor follows the aroma – chocolate, with raisin and dark fruit, sweet, with slight notes of tobacco. This fades to sweet prunes. Imperial Stout features low-medium carbonation with medium body and a smooth mouth feel.

Mother Earth’s Imperial Stout is good, but not great. I would drink it again, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for the style. I expect a little heavier body with a lingering bitter chocolate and coffee flavor/aftertaste in an imperial stout.

Well, that’s it for this edition of Vendome Beer Panel. In my opinion, the best of these five is Rocco Red from Bootlegger’s Brewing. I gave GT Gose a low rating because it’s not a beer style that interests me; however, it’s good within the style category and is definitely refreshing. The other three are good, but not outstanding. If you’re interested in any of these beers, you can buy them at Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton. Be sure to use my discount code “VEN10C” to get a 10% discount off the purchase price. Cheers!

Black Butte XXVIII, Poterie, and Collaboration No. 6

Well, beer lovers, it’s time once again for my much anticipated beer reviews. Today I bring you the low down on three big beers that I recently consumed. All are special release or limited release; I am trying to get these reviews to you in a timely manner so you can still find them if you’re interested. Please read responsibly.

Black Butte XXVIII: (2016) Deschutes Brewing Co., Bend, OR. 11.6% ABV
A few weeks ago I posted a review of Black Butte XXVII and teased you with a mention of Black Butte XXVIII. Well, I found my notes, so here is the review of the 2016 iteration of Deschutes’ anniversary ale.

XXVIII is brewed with cocoa, vanilla, peated malt and sweet orange peel. 50% is aged in Bourbon and Scotch Whiskey barrels. It pours black with a light tan ½” head that fades immediately to a thin ring. The aroma is sweet – raisin, vanilla and cherry. The first flavor impression is semi-sweet chocolate, with some alcohol, dark fruit, tobacco and vanilla. Chocolate and toffee linger in the aftertaste.

As it warms, it becomes sweeter. The chocolate persists, but is not as bitter. The chocolate/toffee aftertaste remains, but is somewhat sweeter. XXVIII has a very thick body and velvety smooth mouth feel. The carbonation level, although not high, is enough to impart some bitterness and palate cleansing. The alcohol content is relatively high, but is only slightly noticeable in the taste.

Although XXVIII is a Bourbon/Scotch Whiskey barrel aged beer, the barrel notes are not really noticeable in the flavor. They are only slightly detected in the aroma.

Overall, Black Butte XXVIII is excellent. I sampled this beer from a 22 oz. bomber (bottled 06-13-2016). I’m not sure about the availability any longer – I purchased it several months ago and drank it in January (2017).

Poterie: The Bruery, Placentia, CA. 16.8% ABV.
This is the eighth anniversary beer from The Bruery in Placentia. All of their anniversary beers have been big – very complex flavors and high in alcohol. This one is no exception. It’s an English style strong ale aged in Bourbon barrels.

Poterie pours a cloudy brown with a light beige ¾” head that fades after about 2 minutes to a substantial ring around the perimeter of a “Bruery” tulip glass. The aroma is sweet, vanilla, bourbon and alcohol. The flavor is sweet chocolate with some grainy bitterness, tart, and tobacco, with no alcohol noted. The aftertaste is chocolaty bitterness, vanilla, toffee and cherries. The bourbon barrel notes are very subdued.

As Poterie warms, the alcohol becomes noticeable, and the flavor grows a little sweeter. The aromas of vanilla, bourbon and alcohol also intensify. At room temperature, the flavor is alcohol, vanilla, and bourbon, and then fades to chocolate, mocha and grainy bitterness.

This beer is highly carbonated, which is a good thing. Otherwise, it could be too syrupy (thick and sweet) on the tongue. Poterie is available still, in 750 ml bottles. With almost 17% alcohol, that’s too much for one person at one sitting. I recommend this beer, but if you are going to get one, plan on sharing it.

Collaboration No. 6: Boulevard Brewing (Kansas City, MO) and Firestone Walker Brewing (Paso Robles, CA). 12.5% ABV.
This is a somewhat unique collaboration between two breweries. Normally with a collaboration brew, the two brewmasters get together at one of the breweries and they brew a collaboration recipe. In this case, however, the two brewmasters got together, each providing samples of two of their finished products, and then blended them in graduated cylinders until they arrived at “the perfect balance of two barrel aged beers from each brewery.” So, this is a mixture of Boulevard’s Bourbon Barrel Quad (45%), Imperial Stout X – Tart Cherry (10%) and Firestone’s Stickee Monkey (35%) and Velvet Merkin (10%).

Enough background though; lets get to the point. No. 6 pours opaque dark brown with a 1” tan head that persists. The aroma is tart cherry and chocolate with some Belgian spiciness. The flavor is chocolate and tart cherry, which fades to vanilla (from the barrel aging) with a lingering bitterness.

As it warms, the aroma becomes a bit sweeter and the flavor becomes more chocolate. The cherry seems to become sweeter, less tart. At room temperature, it’s all about the chocolate. The alcohol is noticeable in the aroma, but not in the flavor. The aftertaste is a lingering sweetness and cherry (not tart). No. 6 has a high carbonation level with medium body and mouth feel.  This beer is very good! I drank this from a 750 ml bottle over the course of an afternoon, for a very pleasant experience. I think this is still available in limited quantities, and I highly recommend it.

Well, folks, that’s it for now. I recommend all three of these beers, so open your wallets and buy them (if you can still find them). Caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers (and/or cheapskates) – don’t bother, you won’t like them.  I will likely be posting a new Vendome Beer Panel review at the end of the week, so check back around March 31, 2017 for additional tips and discount opportunities.

Sláinte!

Vendome Beer Panel – March 9, 2017

The Vendome Wine and Spirits Beer Panel met for the second time, on March 9, 2017.  Again we sampled five different beers again, but this time all of the beers were from one brewery – Ballast Point, in San Diego, California.  In addition to the Vendome panelists, there were two representatives from Ballast Point, Nicholas and Joey.  These two gentlemen put on a fine presentation, supplying the beer and providing loads of information about each sample.  If these reviews intrigue you or pique your interest, get yourself over to Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton and use my code, “VEN10C” to get a 10% discount off the purchase price.  Oh, and please read responsibly!

The rating system:
0 – I wouldn’t offer this beer to my worst enemy.
1 – I wouldn’t pay for this beer, but it’s alrigjht.
2 – Tasty, but easily forgettable.
3 – I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.
4 – I can see myself buying this beer and ordering seconds.
5 – Just hook up the beer straight to my veins.

Bonito: 4.5% ABV   20 IBU   Rating – 3
This Blonde Ale pours clear yellow with a ¾” white head that lasts forever (and left substantial lacing, even in a 2 oz. plastic sample cup). The aroma is a little bit of lemon, but very slight, with just a hint of malt. The flavor is a slight hoppy bitterness, with a little malt at the back end. It fades to a very slight, but pleasant bitterness in the dry finish. The body is light, with high-medium carbonation.

This is a typical Blonde Ale in that the aromas and flavors are quite mild. The 20 IBU is just slightly high for the style (more typically around 15 IBU), which gives the impression of being a little more dry than most Blondes. Overall, it’s a tasty and thirst quenching beer, but not one I would order again (I’m not much of a Blonde Ale drinker – I prefer bigger, more robust flavors).  If you like Blonde Ales, you might like this a lot (or you might not, it’s a little more hoppy than a typical Blonde).

Sculpin: 7% ABV   70 IBU   Rating – 4
Is there anybody in Southern California who has never had a Sculpin IPA? I doubt it. Sculpin is Ballast Point’s flagship beer – and for good reason. It’s very good, and it’s one of my go-to IPAs.

Sculpin pours a clear golden color, shading toward orange, with an ivory ½” head that fades to a substantial ring. The aroma is citrus, grapefruit and tropical. The flavor is well balanced for an IPA. It’s bitter (but not an overwhelming bitter bomb), with notes of grapefruit, citrus and pine. The body is medium as is the carbonation level.

This is a great example of a West Coast style IPA. If you like IPAs, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Grapefruit Sculpin: 7% ABV   70 IBU   Rating – 4
Grapefruit Sculpin is just what you would expect from the name – Sculpin with grapefruit added. The appearance, body, mouth feel, and carbonation level is exactly the same as Sculpin. Here is how the other attributes compare to Sculpin.

The aroma is similar, but slightly sweeter with a little extra grapefruit on the nose. The flavor is grapefruit, of course, but not as strong as one might expect, and not quite as bitter (have you ever eaten a grapefruit half with a little bit of sugar on top?). The nice bittersweet fades to a strong grapefruit flavor for a few seconds. The aftertaste is also bittersweet, and very pleasant.

So what about Grapefruit Sculpin? It’s very good, just like Sculpin, but there is definitely an added layer of depth in the taste. Try drinking Sculpiin and Grapefruit Sculpin side-by-side and you will see what I mean. The differences are noticeable, but nuanced and easy to miss if one is not paying attention. I highly recommend Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin.

Manta Ray: 8.5% ABV   70 IBU   Rating – 5
This beer is the heavy hitter among these five brews. Manta Ray, a Double IPA, is a new release from Ballast Point.

Manta Ray pours clear yellow with a ¼” white head. The aroma is tropical, bitter, melon, and pine. The flavor is citrus and pine, but well balanced and smooth. The malty sweetness comes through, but is well covered by citrus, piney bitterness and melon. The body is medium to medium-high with low-medium carbonation and a smooth, creamy mouth feel. The alcohol is fairly high, although low to medium for the style, and is not noticeable in the flavor.

This beer is AWESOME – the best of the evening. I bought a 6-pack before I left Vendome (yes, I used my discount code). I highly recommend this beer to any serious IPA or DIPA drinker.

Barmy: 12% ABV   32 IBU   Rating – 4
Barmy is a strong Golden Ale brewed with orange blossom honey and apricots. It pours a clear golden yellow with an ivory head that rapidly fades to a fairly thin ring. The aroma is sweet, cider-like, but with no alcohol (surprising, given the high alcohol content).

The flavor is all about the fruit, similar to a mead. It’s sweet, but there is a noticeable apricot tartness, and notes of orange. The alcohol comes through late on the palate, but it’s not hot or unpleasant. Carbonation is low, with medium-heavy body.

Barmy is excellent. It is bursting with flavor, and easy to drink. Be careful, however, at 12% ABV, a little goes a long way. This is another Ballast Point brew that I can highly recommend.

Well, there you have it. Ballast Point Brewing is truly one of the West Coast’s finest breweries (BTW, I toured their Miramar brewing facility on February 6, 2017). If you want to give any of these beers (or all of them) a try, go to Vendome in Fullerton and purchase them. Be sure to use code “VEN10C” to get a 10% discount off the price of these beers.  If you can’t get down to Vendome in Fullerton, then by all means, buy them wherever you can.

Cheers!

Ashcroft and Black Butte XXVII

Greetings to all you beer lovers.  Today I bring reviews of two beers that were released in 2016, Ashcroft (Black Market Brewing), and Black Butte XXVII (Deschutes Brewing).  I drank and reviewed these beers several months ago, but just recently found my notes.  I should have posted these reviews when I sampled them last summer.  Sorry for the delay – I offer no excuses.  Both of these beers may no longer be available.

Ashcroft: Black Market Brewing Co., Temecula, CA.  9.8% ABV
Ashcroft is a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Brown Ale.  It’s dark hazy brown with a 1/2″ beige head that fades after about two minutes, leaving a thick ring and a very slight surface layer.  The aroma is sweet, chocolaty, with a little coffee and vanilla.

The flavor is dark fruit, sweet chocolate, and caramel, with just a hint of acidic tartness.  Then the bourbon kicks in with notes of vanilla and coconut.  There is a nice lingering bitterness in the finish and the aftertaste.  Ashcroft has a medium body and mouthfeel with a nice carbonation level that keeps it from tasting too heavy.  Then alcohol level is high, but is not noted in the flavor (you will, however, notice it’s effects!).  As it warms, the alcohol becomes a little noticeable in the aroma and flavor.

Brown Ales can easily be too sweet or too thin, but this one is well balanced.  The bourbon barrel really adds a lot to it.  “Brown Recluse” from Phantom Ales in Anaheim has been my favorite and “Go To” brown ale, but I think I like Ashcroft a little better, just because of the barrel aging, which adds another level of complexity.  This beer is a real treat.

Black Butte XXVII (2015): Deschutes Brewing Co., Bend, OR.  11.6% ABV.
Each year Deschutes releases a special version of their flagship porter, Black Butte.  They add special ingredients and then age part of the batch in whiskey barrels.  This anniversary ale is different each year. so once it’s gone, there’s no getting it again.  The 2015 version was blended with apricot puree, cacao nibs and pomegranate molasses.  I purchased this bottle in early 2016 and aged it for several months in my refrigerator.

Black Butte XXVII pours black with a 1/2″ light cocoa colored head that lasts for a couple of minutes before fading to a substantial ring around the perimeter of a tulip glass.  The aroma is sweet, bourbon, oak, tart and apricot.

The flavor is sweet chocolate, a little tartness, vanilla, oak, dark fruit (plum), coffee (very slight) and molasses.  The overall impression is sweet, but that fades to a slight bitterness, which in turn dissolves into a semi-sweet chocolate flavor.  The apricot and pomegranate is subdued, but is noticeable in the tartness.  As it warms, the aroma and flavor becomes sweeter, with hints of caramel and nuts/nougat, like a Snickers Bar.  The alcohol flavor also becomes a little more pronounced as it warms, but never becomes prevalent or boozy.  The body is medium to full – well developed for a porter.

My perception of this beer is chocolate above all else.  Bourbon is not detectable in the flavor, but is slightly noticeable in the aroma.  That’s a little disappointing, but I would still say this is an EXCELLENT beer.  The notice on the bottle read, “Best After 7-20-16”.  I drank this beer on 08-06-2016.

I recently sampled/drank Black Butte XXVIII, and wanted to include the review here.  Unfortunately I lost my notes.  If I ever find them, I’ll post the review.  Until then, all I can say is that it is very good, but was different than XXVII.  Sorry for this teaser, but I guess  you’ll just have to go get some for yourself (it should still be available) and enjoy the experience.

Black Butte XXVII is no longer available, although one might be able to find it somewhere.  I believe Ashcroft is a special/rotating release, and may be available again (not sure about future availability – that’s a little ambiguous).

Well, that’s it for now beer lovers.  I will be posting a new Vendome Beer Panel review at the end of the week, so check back around March 11, 2017 for additional tips and discount opportunities.

Sláinte!

Vendome Beer Panel – February 16, 2017

This month I was selected to be on the Vendome Wine and Spirits beer panel. The panel consists of 5 individuals; none of us represent any brewery or distributer.   We sample craft beer, write reviews, and rate the beer so that customers can access our expertise when making beer selections.  This is a volunteer position – my only compensation is free beer samples once every three weeks.  I am hopefully helping Vendome sell high quality craft beer with my recommendation, but I get no commission or wage from them.  I am doing this strictly for the love of the beer.

Our first panel tasting was on Thursday February 16, 2017.  We sampled five beers from five different breweries.  My reviews are posted here for your reading pleasure.  If any of my reviews pique your interest, I encourage you to go to Vendome and buy the beer.  When you buy the beer based upon my recommendation, you will get a 10% discount off of their already low/competitive price if you use MY discount code, VEN10C.  This code is specifically related to MY reviews; each person on the panel has a different code, and will be given credit for sales of the corresponding beer.  Although I will get no monetary compensation, sales related to my discount code will help keep me on the panel (if I’m not bringing any customers in to purchase the recommended beer, I will be replaced on the panel by someone else).

Each beer is assigned a numerical rating, from 0 to 5, as follows:
0 – I wouldn’t offer this beer to my worst enemy.
1 – I wouldn’t pay for this beer, but it’s alright.
2 – Tasty, but easily forgettable.
3 – I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.
4 – I can see myself buying this beer and ordering seconds.
5 – Just hook up the beer straight to my veins.

So, here’s what you have all been waiting for . . . reviews and recommendations for five beers.  These ratings are solely mine – I did not consult with or collaborate with the other panel members in my ratings, so I don’t know how they rated each beer.  These are MY observations and recommendations only (note: the prices listed are for 22 oz. bombers at Vendome).  Please read responsibly.

We Should See Other People: Arsenal Urban Ales, Westlake, CA. 5.4% ABV.
Rating – 4  ($6.99)
This blonde ale pours a clear golden color, typical for the style, with a white head that fades fairly rapidly. The aroma is fruity sweet, with coffee and cocoa (especially coffee!).

The flavor is sweet, coffee/mocha, then fades to a sweet coffee aftertaste. There is a very slight bitterness, but no real hoppy notes. This is a very clean tasting beer with a light body and medium carbonation.

Overall, We Should See Other People is a pleasant drinking experience. It’s a well balanced beer, though not a typical blonde ale, thanks to the added cocoa and coffee. The alcohol content at 5.4% is on the high side for a blonde, but it’s not so high that one couldn’t easily drink two or three in a sitting. Arsenal Urban Ales has done a nice job with this one, and I recommend it to anyone looking for an easy drinking ale with a little extra flavor complexity.

Land of Hopportunity Blood Orange IPA: 4 Sons Brewing, Huntington Beach, CA. 6.3% ABV 62 IBU
Rating – 3  ($6.99)
This IPA is a slightly different take on 4 Sons standard IPA, Land of Hopportunity, with the addition of blood orange. It pours a clear golden-orange with a thick, light cream colored head that persists for a couple of minutes. The aroma is hoppy, tropical fruit and a little citrus.

The flavor is hoppy but not overwhelming; it’s bitter with tropical fruit notes. The bitterness level is nice, not over the top, but there’s no doubt it’s an IPA. Nuances of orange are apparent on the back end and are dominant in the aftertaste. The body is light to medium, with a medium carbonation level.

This is a nice IPA, with subdued citrus/orange flavors. It’s good and it’s refreshing, but doesn’t’ stand out from the crowded field of American style IPAs. The alcohol content is mid level for the style. I can say I would drink this again if I had a bottle in my refrigerator, but would not go out of the way to buy it.

Expatriot: Three Weavers Brewing, Inglewood, CA. 6.9% ABV.
Rating – 4  ($7.49)
Expatriot is an American style IPA from relative newcomer, Three Weavers Brewing. It pours a golden/orange color with a thin white head that rapidly fades. The aroma is malty sweet (pale malts) with some hoppy citrus.

The flavor is bittersweet, malty with tropical fruit and a hoppy chaser that fades to a citrus bitterness. The pleasant bitterness lingers forever in the aftertaste. This beer is a little more complex than the typical American style IPA – more like a Double IPA with the bittersweet malt/hops balance. The body is medium to medium-full, with medium-high carbonation, also reminiscent of a DIPA.

Expatriot is very good – well balanced, malty yet bitter and clean. The alcohol content is high for an IPA, so be careful with it. If you like big IPA’s, you should give it a try. I will definitely be on the lookout for this one in the future.

Coconut Imperial Brown Ale: Valiant Brewing, Orange CA. 8.5% ABV. 30 IBU
Rating – 5  ($7.49)
When Valiant Brewing opened a few years ago, they concentrated on Belgian style ales. They have since expanded their repertoire significantly and are doing it well! Brown ales are (in my opinion) difficult to get right, but Valiant did a great job with this one.

Coconut Imperial Brown Ale pours a clear dark brown with a light beige head that rapidly fades to thin ring around the perimeter. The aroma is sweet, coconut, with a hint of chocolate and a little alcohol.

The flavor is slightly roasty but sweet, with light cocoa, followed by a punch in the mouth with dark chocolate and coconut. Next up is pure coconut followed by a lingering semi-sweet chocolate and coconut aftertaste. Wait a minute, did I just take a bite of a Mounds candy bar? No, but that is the flavor profile here.

This beer features a very solid brown ale base, with some grainy bitterness and 30 IBU to balance the flavor, which otherwise could be too sweet. Again, even though it tastes like a candy bar, it’s not overly sweet. This is all about the coconut, and it’s well done. Some coconut beers on the market tend to have an “imitation” flavor, but this one tastes like toasted fresh coconut. Coconut Imperial Brown presents a medium body and mouthfeel, with light-medium carbonation. The alcohol content is relatively high, but is not detected in the flavor, so it would be easy to drink too much.

Based on my 3 oz. sample, I think this beer is excellent. I will definitely buy it in the future. One caveat, however: with this much flavor, a 22 oz. bomber might wear me out. I highly recommend Coconut Imperial Brown Ale to anyone who enjoys dark beers. Well done, Valiant!

Café Racer 15: Bear Republic Brewing, Cloverdale, CA. 9.75% ABV. 100+ IBU.
Rating – 5  ($8.99)
Café Racer 15 is a Double IPA from well known Bear Republic Brewing in Northern California. It pours a clear orange with a white head that fades rapidly, leaving no ring. The aroma is citrus hoppy and sweet with just a hint of tropical fruit.

The flavor is quintessential DIPA – bittersweet. It has a nice, thick malty framework, including notes of caramel, covered with pine and citrus. The overall impression is citrus, but that is mitigated by a big malty sweetness. The 100+ IBU is well balanced, so it doesn’t taste like a bitter hop bomb on the palate. The body is on the heavy side of medium with a light-medium carbonation level (this is not a dry IPA).

Café Racer 15 is an excellent DIPA. The malt and hops are nicely balanced within the style guidelines. At 9.75% ABV, the alcohol content is high. A 22 oz. bomber will get you where you want to go – especially if you consume it on an empty stomach. (but no driving afterward!). I highly recommend this beer.

Well, there you have it – my observations and recommendations for five craft beers.  I hope you find this review helpful.  If you feel the need to purchase any of these beers, get yourself down to Vendome Wine and Spirits and use my discount code VEN10C to save yourself a little cash (and to keep me on the panel so I can continue to bring you these enlightening reviews).  Vendome is located at 3115 Yorba Linda Blvd., Fullerton.  A special THANK YOU to Junior and Vikki for allowing me to review beer for your business.

There are two more beer panels scheduled for March 9, and March 30, so check back here a day or two after those dates for more ratings and recommendations.

Sláinte!

Santa’s Little Helper & Ginger Bigfoot

I’m way behind on Beer Reviews (I’ve sampled them, and have pages of notes, but haven’t yet written them up).  I will try to catch up in the next few of weeks, but for now I offer my observations on a couple of special release beers.  Please read responsibly!

Santa’s Little Helper: Port Brewing, San Marcos, CA.  10.5% ABV.
Port Brewing makes a lot of delicious beers.  Santa’s Little Helper is a winter seasonal release.  This Imperial Stout pours pitch black with a creamy 2″ cocoa colored head that lasts for several minutes before fading to a thin layer, and finally to a small ring around the perimeter of the glass (I used a tulip glass).  The aroma is roasty with notes of licorice and caramel.

The flavor is coffee, bitter chocolate, licorice, sweet, and nutty.  There is a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste from the roasted grains.  The body and mouthfeel is medium/heavy.  The alcohol is well hidden, not really noticeable in the mouth, but it quickly goes to work, so be careful with it.  As this beer warms, dark, semi-sweet chocolate predominates, with notes of toffee and coffee.

Overall, this is very pleasant beer.  It’s typical for an Imperial Russian Stout – roasty and complex with a fairly high alcohol content.  It’s good, but not the best IRS I’ve ever had.

Ginger Bigfoot: Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, CA.  11.4% ABV
Ginger Bigfoot is one of the “Trip In The Woods” Barrel-Aged Series releases from Sierra Nevada.  It is their Bigfoot Barleywine aged in whiskey barrels, with ginger added.

Ginger Bigfoot pours a dark murky brown, with no head, but a very thin ring that faded away.  The aroma is slightly sweet, vanilla, and oak, with a bit of ginger.  The flavor is vanilla, ginger, tobacco, and raisin.  The aftertaste is all ginger.  It’s well carbonated with a medium to heavy body.  As it warms, the whiskey aroma steps forward, but the ginger becomes even more pronounced in both the aroma and flavor.

The whiskey barrel flavor is quite subdued in this beer.  It is VERY ginger forward, which is not to my liking.  I really like Bigfoot Barleywine, and I generally love bourbon barrel aged big beers, but this offering from Sierra Nevada is all about the ginger.  Since I don’t like ginger, I didn’t like this beer.  That’s not to say this is not good beer.  It’s very complex, and if you like ginger, you very well may like this one.

I purchased both of these beers at Costco.  I don’t remember the price, but both were reasonable.  I think Santa’s Little Helper was about $6.00 (22 oz.) and Ginger Bigfoot was about $12.00 (750 ml).  Neither one is available at Costco now, but I have seen both at several other locations.  So, I recommend Santa’s Little Helper, but I did not like Ginger Bigfoot, and would only recommend it to someone who likes ginger.  Caveat: if you’re a fizzy yellow beer drinker, don’t bother with either one.

Well, that’s all for now, beer lovers.  I will try to publish more beer reviews right away, so check back soon.

Slánte!