Fundamental Observation & Stickee Monkee

After posting a flurry of beer reviews early this fall, it’s been nearly two months since my last one.  Here are two beers for your consideration this holiday season. Both of these are Special Release beers, so don’t wait too long if you think you might enjoy them.  Please read responsibly!

Fundamental Observation (2018): Bottle Logic Brewing.  Anaheim, CA.  13.2% ABV.
This is a big Imperial Stout, aged with Madagascar Vanilla beans in a blend of four different brands of bourbon barrels.

Fundamental Observation
November 18, 2018

Fundamental Observation pours cloudy black with a ¼” cocoa brown head that immediately fades to a paper-thin ring around the perimeter.  The aroma is SWEET – vanilla, chocolate, brown sugar, caramel and oak.  The flavor is also sweet, featuring vanilla, chocolate, bourbon, dark fruit, raisin, figs, and brown sugar.  The vanilla is very pronounced on the back end, but fades to a nice lingering chocolate and bourbon aftertaste.

This is definitely a sweet one.  The vanilla is prevalent, but not overwhelming or unpleasant.  It tends to balance out the dark grainy bitterness, which would probably be considerable.  Where is the 13.2% alcohol?  It’s not noticeable in the aroma or flavor, but of course my brain detected it in the form of a massive buzz for the afternoon.

As Fundamental Observation warms, the bourbon becomes quite noticeable in the aroma, along with more intense notes of maple, toffee, and brown sugar.  The underlying flavors – chocolate, dark fruit, raisin, brown sugar, and tobacco – deepen, increasing the complexity of this brew.  Alcohol is now noted in the aroma and taste.  The bourbon and vanilla flavors increase late on the palate and in the aftertaste.

The finishing gravity must be fairly high in this beer, as it has a HUGE thick, creamy, silky smooth mouth feel.  It is extremely full bodied with a low carbonation level.  The thick body and mouth feel were my first impressions, even before the intense flavors were noted.

Fundamental Observation is an amazing beer.  It is very reminiscent of Black Tuesday, but without the alcohol “slap-in-the-face.”

Note: Someone brought a bottle of Fundamental Observation and gave it to me at our Beer Appreciation party in September (see Mac’s Brew News, September 17, 2018, for additional information about the Beer Appreciation party).  Unfortunately I don’t remember who brought it.  Whoever gave this to me went WAY beyond thoughtful, and I need to say thank you to that brilliant person.  After I drank the gift bottle (November 18, 2018), I saw Fundamental Observation the next day at Total Wine and bought another.  Truly, this is one of the WORLD’S GREAT BEERS!

Stickee Monkee (2018): Firestone Walker Brewing.  Paso Robles, CA.  11.4% ABV.
According to Firestone Walker, Stickee Monkee is a “Central Coast Quad”.  So what is that?  It’s Firestone Walker’s take on the Belgian Quad style, brewed with Belgian candi sugar, then aged for over a year in bourbon barrels.

Stickee Monkee
November 25, 2018

Stickee Monkee pours dark brown with a very slight medium tan head that immediately fades away (leaving not even a slight ring). The aroma is brown sugar, toffee, and vanilla.  The flavor is sweet, dark fruit, figs, raisins and brown sugar, with nuances of chocolate and coffee.  No alcohol flavors (or aromas) are noted.  The aftertaste, which lingers forever, is vanilla and toffee, with slight notes of tobacco in the late aftertaste.  As Stickee Monkee warms, I note a bit more chocolate, along with some alcohol in the flavor and aroma.

This beer features a thick, heavy body, with a creamy smooth mouth feel.  The carbonation level is very low.

Stickee Monkee is really good beer.  I’m not a big fan of the Belgian style, but this one is different.  I don’t know if it was fermented with Belgian yeast, but I suspect not, as I did not note any of the typical Belgian spiciness.  I think Firestone Walker calls this a Quad because of the Belgian candi sugar among the ingredients.

I highly recommend these beers.  However, both are limited/special releases, so if you’re interested, you really need to look for them right away.  I purchased both of these last week at Total Wine – $23.99 for a 500 ml bomber of Fundamental Observation, and $11.99 for a 12 oz. bottle of Stickee Monkee – but they had limited amounts of both.

There you have it, beer lovers.  Now go and reward yourself with a couple of World Class beers.  Caveat: Fizzy yellow beer drinkers and cheapskates, don’t bother; these aren’t for you.

By the way, this is my 100th post on Macsbrew.com.  I hope you enjoy reading about beer and beer-related subjects.  [How dumb is that?  Of course you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.]  Stay tuned for the next few years and we’ll see if I can make it to 200.  Special thanks to Joel Matulich, who set up this blog for me as a birthday present in 2012. You’re the bomb, Joel!

Sláinte!

Bravo & Punkuccino

I know all of you beer aficionados anxiously await my beer reviews.  What’s not to love about them, huh?  You get my recommendations, which are worth their weight in gold (ok, so my recommendations have no physical weight – they’re still priceless).  Anyway, here are two more reviews for your consumption. Please read responsibly!

Bravo: Firestone Walker Brewing, Paso Robles, CA.  13.2% ABV.
This is Firestone Walker’s bourbon barrel aged Imperial Brown Ale.  It’s unclear to me if it’s an annual release, with very limited availability (see below).

Bravo pours a deep hazy brown with a very slight, light beige head that rapidly fades.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla and bourbon.  The flavor features grainy bitterness, vanilla, and coconut, and then fades to a sweet vanilla, which lingers forever.  The bourbon is well represented in the flavor and aroma of this beer.  As Bravo warms, a nice mild chocolate flavor emerges mid-palate.

This is a heavy bodied beer with a thick, smooth mouth feel.  The carbonation level is medium-light, offering just enough fizz to keep it from being syrupy.

Bravo is all about the bourbon barrel – it’s front and center.  I have to describe this beer as EXCELLENT!  Bravo was released in early 2017, and I bought a bottle at Total Wine in February 2017.  I have tried to find Bravo since I drank the one bottle, but have had no success.  I’m not sure, but this may have been a one time release and unavailable now and in the future.  That’s too bad, because I definitely want more.

Punkuccino: Elysian Brewing, Seattle, WA.  6.0% ABV.
I’m not a pumpkin beer lover, but I try to get a couple of different ones each fall in the spirit of harvest celebration and American beer crafting.  Punkuccino is a Coffee Pumpkin Ale from Elysian Brewing, one of Seattle’s premier breweries.  I bought Punkuccino this week at Total Wine ($8.99 for a 22 oz. bomber), thinking I might possibly like it because it has coffee in addition to pumpkin.

Punkuccino pours clear, dark ruby red (you’ll see the red if you hold the glass up to the light) with a light tan ¼” head that faded after about two minutes.  A very thin ring around the perimeter and slight surface foam remained through most of the session.  It smells like sweet coffee with a dash of pumpkin.

The flavor is sweet pumpkin and spice. Coffee is not noted until the pumpkin pie fades to the aftertaste, which is mostly sweet coffee.  So, how do I describe the flavor?  It’s pumpkin and spice (cinnamon and nutmeg, like pumpkin pie), then it becomes a bit stronger mid-palate, and then the pumpkin fades to sweet coffee, which is very pleasant.

The carbonation is fairly light, as is the body – it’s a bit thin.  But then again, it’s not a stout or a big beer by any means, so I would have to say it’s within the style category parameters.

Well, like I said, I really don’t care for pumpkin ales, so I was wary (but hopeful) when I bought and then drank this beer. This one is mild on the pumpkin pie/pumpkin ale spectrum.  It came in a 22 oz. bomber, so I had a lot of it to drink.  At first I thought I would not buy it again, but the more I drank it, the more I liked it.  The aroma is really enticing.  And for any of you who like Pumpkin Spice Latte’s, you might really enjoy this beer. But what you all want to know is, will I buy this again?  The answer is: probably yes, BUT . . . only one more bomber (after all, I can take only so much Pumpkin Ale).

So what’s the bottom line on Punkuccino?  In my opinion it’s good as far Pumpkin Ales go. If you like those types of autumn beers, this is one you should DEFINITELY try.  [Krissy – you’re the Pumpkin Spice Latte girl; you need to try this. Kevin – I don’t know if you are a Pumpkin Ale drinker, but you really need to support your homeboys on this one; no excuses!!]

Well, that’s it for now, beer lovers.  One of these reviews is probably a bit too late (Bravo), but the other is current and very relevant (Punkuccino), so get out there and support the craft brewing industry.

Sláinte!

Imperial Stout X-Coconut & The Nothing

Greetings, beer drinkers.  Are you getting tired of all these beer reviews?  I hope not, because there’s more to come.  Today I bring you a couple of dark beauties.  As always, I caution you to “please read responsibly!”

Imperial Stout X – Coconut: Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City, MO.  11% ABV.
Boulevard Brewing released a number of special release Imperial Stouts in their Smokestack Series.  Imperial Stout X was the final release in the series.  I had several of the beers in the Smokestack series, and reviewed another one a couple of years ago.

ISX-Coconut is Boulevard’s Smokestack Series base Imperial Stout with coconut added during aging.  This beer is not barrel aged.

ISX-Coconut is a typical Imperial Stout – dark, thick, and sweet.  It pours black with a 2” creamy head of dark tan foam that remains for quite a while before fading to a substantial ring.  The aroma is sweet chocolate, coconut and vanilla.  The flavor leads with bittersweet chocolate and vanilla, then fades to sweet coconut and vanilla that lingers forever.  The carbonation level is low-moderate, and it has a medium to heavy body and mouth feel.  In other words, it’s pretty thick.

As it warms, it sweetens up further. ISX-Coconut has a big flavor profile, which masks the 11% alcohol content remarkably well (but don’t worry, it will quickly get you where you want to go).  In spite of this big, complex flavor, it’s not nearly as burly or as pleasing as some other Imperial Stouts out there, and the coconut flavor is a bit understated.  This is good beer, but not great, and a bit disappointing considering the price.  [Note: Refer to my post of January 5, 2016 for a review of another Smokestack Series Imperial Stout – Tart Cherry Stout.  The review reaches similar conclusions – good, but not great.]

The Nothing: Smog City Brewing, Torrance, CA.  9.3% ABV.
With a name like “The Nothing”, this should be an entirely forgettable beer.  Allow me to dispel that notion.

This beer is named after the evil antagonist from the epic fantasy book/movie, “The Neverending Story”.  The Nothing is described as, “a force of absolute oblivion that erases everything and everyone it touches from existence and leaves no trace whatsoever.” Anyone in its presence is, “compelled to jump into it and meet their doom.” (villians.wiki.com)

The Nothing pours midnight black with a thin cocoa colored head that immediately fades to a thin ring.  The aroma is sweet coffee and chocolate.  The flavor is sweet chocolate with some coffee late on the tongue.  The aftertaste, which lingers quite a while, is a nice, slightly bitter, coffee flavor.

As this one warms, the aroma becomes more chocolate, and less coffee, but remains sweet, maybe even sweeter.  The flavor is all about the chocolate, but the coffee forces its way through in the aftertaste.

The Nothing is thick, THICK, THICK, with a velvety smooth richness and viscosity (90 wt. gear oil comes to mind). The carbonation level is low, which helps to give it that thick mouth feel.  The alcohol level is low-moderate for an American Imperial Stout, but at 9.3%, it’s enough to “git ‘er done” (after ¼ of the bottle, I had a very pleasant buzz).

This beer is (The) Nothing short of amazing. Oh, and I’m sure you’ll agree that The Nothing is appropriately named (admit it now, aren’t you compelled by my review and description to jump into it and meet your doom?).  There are a lot of Imperial Stouts out there, but there’s nothing like The Nothing.

Recommendations
Imperial Stout X – Coconut was a special release and may no longer be available (I purchased it well after the release, and cellar aged it for a while before drinking it).  It’s a good Imperial Stout, but not as good as I would expect from a limited special release beer, especially for the price.  My recommendation is . . . I wouldn’t turn it down if someone gave me a bottle, but I wouldn’t pay for one.

The Nothing is a winter release (500 ml bottles).  Rosie gave me The Nothing for my birthday this year – thank you, Rosie!  I can HIGHLY recommend The Nothing, but be forewarned, it’s not cheap, and not always easy to find.  That just makes it all the more worthwhile in my opinion.  [Note – The Nothing is currently available at Total Wine, $11.99/bottle.]  Caveat: if you’re a cheap bastard or a fizzy yellow beer drinker, don’t bother looking for either of these fine ales.

Well, boys and girls, that’s it for now.  You’ve got all the information you need, so get out there and find yourself some good beer.

Sláinte!

Zombie Dust & Lucille

Hello Beer lovers.  It’s time to learn more about the wide, wide world of beers. Here are a couple of ales that are not widely available on the West Coast, but if you’re travelling and see them, by all means buy them.  Please read responsibly!

Zombie Dust: 3 Floyds Brewing, Munster, Indiana.  6.2% ABV, 50 IBU.
Zombie Dust is a Pale Ale brewed by 3 Floyds Brewing in Indiana.  This beer is very well known and highly sought after, yet it’s difficult to get because it’s not widely distributed (not really available outside of the Midwest). It was rated the 8thbest beer in America in 2018 by the American Homebrewers Association.  I’ve had it on one occasion, which is what generated this review.

Zombie Dust from 3 Floyds Brewing.

There’s a lot of hype and hyperbole surrounding this beer.  Beers that are difficult to come by have a mystique, and they tend to be rated high due to that mystique.  I’m not immune from this phenomenon (see my review of Pliny the Younger in the Macsbrew February 18, 2018 Newsletter for some thoughts on this), so keep that in mind while reading this review.

Zombie Dust pours hazy orange/gold with a ¾” white head that persists for quite awhile.  The aroma is citrus, grapefruit and a bit of orange peel.  The flavor is bitter, grapefruit, pine and apricot. The malt is noticeable in the mouth, although it’s not overly sweet or heavy.  There is a nice lingering bitter apricot aftertaste.

This pale ale is not dry.  As I mentioned, there is a good malt foundation, giving it a slight sweetness (compare to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which is much more dry) but no heaviness is noted.  The body is medium with a viscous mouth feel, and the carbonation level is moderate-high. At 50 IBU, this pale ale is actually on the low end of the IPA bitterness scale, but the bitterness is well balanced by the malty sweetness.

Zombie Dust is very good.  It’s definitely one of the better Pale Ales I’ve ever tasted, and I would love to have it again.  That probably won’t happen anytime soon as I have no plans to travel to Indiana in the near future.

Lucille IPA: Georgetown Brewing, Seattle, Washington.  7.2% ABV, 85 IBU.
This IPA pours a hazy, deep golden-yellow color with a white 1” foamy head that remains for a couple of minutes.  The aroma is citrus, apricot and grapefruit.  The flavor is bitter grapefruit and pine resin with some tropical fruit notes.  It goes down pretty dry and bitter, with no maltiness noted.  The aftertaste is grapefruit with a lingering bitterness. Lucille has medium body and mouth feel, with a medium carbonation level.

Overall, Lucille is pretty bitter, yet easy to drink. The relatively high alcohol content is well hidden – I didn’t note it in the taste at all – but is very effective on an empty stomach.  This is a nice IPA in the classic Northwest style.

Lucille, by Georgetown Brewing

Neither Zombie Dust nor Lucille are available in Southern California.  So how did I manage to obtain these two worthy beers?  Zombie Dust was given to me by my young brewing friend, Dave Hollandbeck.  His family lives in Indiana and he makes an annual trek there in March to visit his family and score some Dark Lord from 3 Floyds (for more information on Dark Lord and on Dave Hollandbeck, see my review of Dark Lord, posted June 9, 2015). Dave was kind enough to give me a 12 oz. bottle of Zombie Dust, because that’s the kind of thoughtful young man he is. Cheers Dave!

As for Lucille, Kevin McCaffrey gave me a sixer when we met in February 2018 at Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, to indulge ourselves with Pliny the Younger.  [Note: The six-pack of Lucille is LONG gone; my notes for this review are from February 28, 2018.]  Kevin is a thoughtful uncle, who pampers his grateful nephew.  Cheers, Kevin!

I strongly recommend both of these beers.  The trouble for you (and for me as well) is finding them.  If you’re wondering why I bother to review beers that are not readily accessible to you beer lovers who follow this blog, the answer is simple – I love great beer, and when I get my hands on it, even though it’s hard to come by, I feel compelled to pass along the experience.  The solution to this problem is easy: get in your car and drive to these locations (or get in your car, drive to the airport and then fly to these destinations). If you’re not willing to do that, then you’ll just have to taste them vicariously through my descriptions in this blog.  As long as I have relatives like Kevin, and friends like Dave, who so generously give me World Class beers from far away locations, I will graciously accept them, drink them, and review them.

Well beer friends, that’s it for now.  But worry not, more reviews are coming soon.

Sláinte!

Bits & Bobs, and Black Imperial IPA

I’ve been telling you that I have lots of notes on beers I have sampled in the last year, but have not taken the time to post the reviews.  Today I start catching you all up on what’s good to drink out there.  Today it’s two beers from Reuben’s Brews in Seattle. Please read responsibly!

Bits & Bobs: Reuben’s Brews, Seattle WA.  7.0% ABV
“Bits and bobs” is a British term that means “bits and pieces”.  In this case, Reuben’s will be releasing this on a seasonal basis, but it will be different each year, based upon the bits and pieces the brewers have learned since the last release.  This is a review of the 2018 version, released in January 2018.  I drank a bomber of this in early March 2018.  Unfortunately I didn’t realize this was a one-off seasonal, so I apologize for the lengthy delay (it almostmakes this review meaningless and obsolete).  It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as this is not available outside of the State of Washington.  Since you can’t get this version any longer, I guess my description is just going to have to satisfy you.

Reuben’s Brews Bits & Bobs. Forgive the wine glass – that was the only thing available at The Gosby House in Pacific Grove.

Bits & Bobs is an IPA.  It pours a crystal clear, pale, yellow color with a ½” white head of foam that fades after about a minute, to a thin covering and a ¼” ring. The aroma is citrus – orange, grapefruit and lemon.

The flavor is bitter grapefruit and lemon, but it’s not overly bitter.  Some malty sweetness makes an appearance late on the palate.  The lingering aftertaste is bitter, but not unpleasant.  It’s clean and dry, very crisp for an ale, with medium-light body and moderate carbonation.  This beer is very drinkable.

Black Imperial IPA: Reuben’s Brews, Seattle WA.  8.1% ABV.
Reuben’s calls their Black IPA a Cascadian Dark Ale (in case you’re not aware of it, Cascadian Dark Ale is another style name for Black IPA). This one pours midnight black with a 1” creamy beige head. The aroma is hoppy, with citrus and chocolate notes.

Reuben’s Brews Cascadian Dark Ale

The dark malts predominate in the flavor over the hops, but just slightly so.  It’s roasty and chocolate with slight peppery notes from the rye malt.  The hops kick in mid palate, with citrus and grapefruit bitterness.  It fades to a mellow combination of roasty and bitter, with a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.

The body is medium, which was somewhat of a surprise given the creamy thick appearance of the head.  Carbonation level is medium.

This is an Imperial IPA with the typical bittersweet profile, except the sweetness from the malt is quite subdued.  Instead, roastiness mixes with the hoppy bitterness to create that bitter chocolate citrus flavor that is so common in these Cascadian Dark Ales.  This is one of the better ones – very good!

Mac enjoying a Reuben’s Brews Black Imperial IPA in front of the outdoor fireplace at Mac’s Brew Pub, April 27, 2018.

I can highly recommend both of these beers. Bits & Bobs is released annually in in limited quantities in January and February.  Of course it will taste different each year as the recipe is revised yearly.  Black Imperial IPA is released annually in November and December.  Black IPA’s have faded in popularity and are getting hard to find these days (e.g., Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Black IPA was discontinued a couple of years ago; see my review of SSR posted 11-26-2012).  Get this one while you still can.  It won a gold medal at the 2015 World Beer Cup.

Both of these beers (22 oz. bombers) were given to me by my uncle, Kevin McCaffrey, who lives in Seattle (thank you Kevin for your generosity).  See you on February 6, 2019 at Russian River Brewing.  We’ll have Pliny The Younger again, and raise a toast to The Younger, The Elder, and to Mac’s Brew.

Sláinte!

Underbite Double IPA

Well, I’ve got tasting notes on lots of beers I’ve sampled in the last several months.  Here is one review for your beer drinking pleasure.  Please read responsibly.

Underbite Double IPA: Big Dogs Brewing Company, Las Vegas NV.  8.7% ABV.
In my last newsletter I mentioned this beer, and promised a review, plus the story behind the brew and how it ended up at Mac’s Beer Appreciation party.  Now, I know that was a tease, but here’s the story, and I didn’t make you wait long for it.

On Saturday August 11, 2018, I attended the Festival of Flavors at the Brianhead Resort in Brianhead Utah with my brother, Don Evans.  This was a beer, spirits and wine tasting event (held annually at the resort). There were several Utah breweries in attendance, including Wasatch, Talisman, Squatters, and others.  While there, Don introduced me to his friends, Charlie and Amanda Koeller.  It turns out Amanda is one of the three brewers at Big Dogs Brewing Company in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While talking with Charlie he showed me a photo of his dog, Sorrel, a Bordeaux Mastiff (think Tom Hanks’ dog, Beasley, in the movie Turner and Hooch), and explained that the photo inspired the drawing on the Underbite Double IPA can (which he also showed me a picture of).  With my curiosity piqued, I spoke to Amanda, and immediately formed a bond of friendship when I discovered that she was a brewer at Big Dog’s Brewing Company.

Amanda explained how she came up with the recipe for Underbite IPA the night before it was brewed, putting the finishing touches on the recipe well after midnight.  It was supposed to be a one-off brew, but demand for the beer was very high, and Big Dogs decided to add it to their core line-up.

I told Amanda that I found IPAs difficult to brew exactly how I envisioned them, and was impressed that her first iteration of this brew was spot on and so wildly successful.  Unfortunately, Amanda said Big Dogs beer is not distributed outside of Nevada, so I was not going to be able to get it in California.  Lucky for me however, the story doesn’t end there.

That night, long after the event was over, Amanda and Charlie came over to Don’s cabin in Brianhead and brought Sorrel, along with a couple of Underbite Double IPAs to share.  Although I had already had enough beer for the day, how could I turn down the opportunity to drink this IPA with the designer/brewer and the dog whose face graces the can?  Of course I sacrificed and had a can of Underbite with them (see photo).  I REALLY enjoyed the beer, and Amanda agreed to give Don a case of it to bring to Mac’s Beer Appreciation party.

Amanda Koeller (the brewer), with Sorrel (the inspiration) and Mac, enjoying Underbite Double IPA.

Don proudly served this beer at the party, and it was thoroughly enjoyed.  Fortunately for me, there were several cans left over.  I retained the excess Underbite and have been enjoying it at Mac’s Brew Pub.  Now YOU get to vicariously enjoy this beer through my description, but if you want to taste it for yourself, you’ll have to go to Nevada, or come over to Mac’s before it’s all gone.  NOW, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it . . . but enough of that, here’s what you’ve really been waiting for – the review of Underbite Double IPA

.

Underbite pours a slightly hazy straw yellow color with a ½” head that fades after a couple of minutes to a thin ring around the perimeter.  The aroma is tropical fruit, apricot, citrus and lemon.

The flavor follows the nose – citrus, grapefruit, lemon, and pine, with a dry finish and a bitter grapefruit/lemon aftertaste.  The bitterness lingers on the back of the palate.  There is some malty sweetness to this beer, as is typical with a Double IPA, but overall the sensation is bitter and dry.

Underbite has a medium carbonation level with medium body and mouth feel.  The alcohol content is fairly high at 8.7%, but is well hidden, and not noticeable in the flavor.

This beer is very refreshing and easy to drink. It’s a typical bittersweet DIPA, but it leans more toward bitter, less toward the malty end of the style range. One could put a lot of it down on a hot day, but be careful, that high alcohol content could put the hurt on you.

Very well done, Amanda!   And Sorrel, thanks for inspiring her.  I highly recommend this beer.

Underbite Double IPA is available in 12 oz. cans. Unfortunately for most of us, it’s only available in Nevada.  But, next time you go to Las Vegas, pick up a sixer or two and bring it back home with you (and in that case, what happens in Vegas WON’T stay in Vegas).

I normally review more than one beer when I publish beer reviews, but this one got quite lengthy because of the associated story.  Stay tuned, however, I’ll post more beer reviews soon.

Sláinte!

8 Buffalo, Mocha Machine, Consecration & 7Th Anniversary

Have you been wondering what to spend your beer money on? I’ve got notes on lots of beer I’ve tasted in the last several months, but haven’t had time to post any reviews. Here are a few examples that any true connoisseur should find tasty and worthy. Please read responsibly!

8 Buffalo: Beachwood Brewing, Long Beach CA. 12% ABV
This beer is a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Russian Stout. It’s released seasonally, and should be available soon (this review is based upon a bottle I aged at Mac’s for several months). It is available in 22 oz. bombers.

8 Buffalo pours pitch black with a ¼” cocoa head that immediately fades to a thin ring. The aroma is vanilla, oak, and bourbon with chocolate notes. The flavor is strong chocolate, roasty, sweet, vanilla and fades to toffee and bitter cocoa. There is a lingering bittersweet chocolate in the aftertaste.

This stout has a thick mouth feel and heavy body with a low carbonation level. The alcohol, although 12%, is not noticeable in the flavor, but immediately produces a nice warming sensation. The effects are also felt right away.

As this beer warms, the foam ring around the perimeter increases to about ¼” and thin film develops across the top. The aroma becomes a bit sweeter, and the alcohol becomes slightly noticeable. The flavor develops a bit more bitter chocolate with less vanilla. The bourbon barrel aging becomes less noticeable and the aftertaste sweetens.

This is an excellent beer – very complex. I can highly recommend this one to those who appreciate Imperial Stouts and/or bourbon barrel aged ales.C

Mocha Machine: Beachwood Brewing, Long Beach, CA. 9.2% ABV.
This is Beachwood’s Imperial Porter with coffee and chocolate. This is brewed on a rotating basis, so it’s not always available, yet is not too hard to find. I sampled this from a 22 oz. bomber.

Mocha Machine pours black with a ¼” tan head that lasts forever. The aroma is MOCHA – sweet, coffee, vanilla. The flavor is also mocha, semi-sweet coffee, chocolate and vanilla. It fades to a pleasant coffee aftertaste that lingers.

No hoppiness or bitterness is detected, but it’s not overly sweet or out of balance. The coffee is front and center, but is not unpleasant or bitter. It’s very good. I would describe it like an iced coffee, slightly sweetened. Very well done, Beachwood!

Consecration: Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA. 10% ABV.
I’ve never had anything bad from Russian River Brewing. This is no exception. Consecration is a sour dark ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with black currants added.

Consecration pours a clear mahogany brown with a fizzy cream-colored head that fades immediately. It is very highly carbonated (it’s bottle conditioned in a Belgian style bottle with cork and wire cage). Only a slight ring persists around the perimeter during the session.

The aroma is TART, tart and more tart – cherries with some sweet notes. The flavor is sweet black cherry for a brief moment, then a tart attack. Red wine, currents and plum flavors are noted. Did I mention that it’s sour? There’s no way you’re going to miss the brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus added to the aging barrel. The aftertaste is tartness with some wine and a dry finish.

The carbonation level is high on the tongue, and Consecration has a medium to light body. The alcohol is not at all noted in the flavor, but the effect sure is noticeable. After 1/3 of a glass, it kicks in with a nice warming buzz.

I had this on tap at Russian River, and have had it more than once from a 12 oz. bottle. Consecration is excellent, and I highly recommend it. Caveat: if you don’t like sour beers, you won’t like this one, so don’t waste your money or torture yourself – leave it for those who appreciate the style.

7TH Anniversary: Black Market Brewing, Temecula, CA. 12.3% ABV.
As the name states, this is Black Market’s 7th anniversary release. It’s an Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon barrels and blended. I’ve had this bottle for a while, so I presume the 8th anniversary version will be released soon (if it’s not already available).

7TH Anniversary pours dark brown with a ½” tan head that fades after about a minute to a very substantial ring. The aroma is sweet, vanilla, oak, chocolate, nuts, brown sugar and some alcohol. The flavor is chocolate, vanilla, dark fruit, coconut and sweet cherry. It’s quite sweet, and the high alcohol content is well hidden.

The aftertaste is vanilla, coconut and oak – in other words, bourbon barrel. The throat warms after swallowing, and while enjoying the strong vanilla and milk chocolate aftertaste. The body is very viscous, thick, heavy and velvety smooth.

This is a dessert beer. Obviously with this much alcohol, it’s sipped (not guzzled). As it warms, the aroma becomes sweeter and more brown sugar is noted. Some very pleasant bitterness creeps in to the flavor at the back of the palate and the aftertaste is not quite as sweet.

7TH Anniversary is a very good beer. I currently have another bottle (a 22 oz. bomber) aging in the cellar and will consume it sometime in the future – it should age very nicely.

Well, there you have it; three dark beers (two imperial stouts and one imperial porter) and a sour for your (reading) consumption. I can highly recommend all four of these beers, but Consecration is the most unique of the bunch. If you like sour beers, there is no reason why you wouldn’t love it. If you don’t like sour beers, or haven’t really tried them, this would be a good one to cut your teeth on – start with a really good example of the style and it might just win you over right away. I should warn you, however, fizzy yellow beer drinkers need to stay away from these. They are much too complex for your tastes. Leave these beers to the big boys!

Sláinte!

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!