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!

Mash, Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale, and Fogcutter

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It’s been awhile since I posted a beer review, but I have been busy sampling lots of different commercial brews.  Here are my impressions on three of them.  Please read responsibly.

Mash: The Bruery, Placentia, CA12.5% ABV.
Mash is a barley wine style ale aged in bourbon barrels.  Now I like barley wines, and bourbon barrel aged beers, so this should be a “can’t miss” beer, right?  The Bruery didn’t disappoint (I have to say, they never do; although I’m not wild about Belgian style beers, their specialty, you can count on anything from The Bruery to be good, and this is just another really good beer from our friends in Placentia).

Mash pours a cloudy dark amber with a 1/4″ light cream colored head that fades to a  thin ring around the perimeter of the glass (in this case, a “Bruery” tulip glass).  The aroma is sweet, dark fruit, raisin, toffee, caramel, vanilla, coconut and bourbon (faint).

Mash has a thick, heavy body with flavors of toffee, caramel, raisin, figs, vanilla, and coconut.  It then produces a slight bitterness that fades to more coconut, vanilla, and a little bit of booze, with a tobacco like quality lingering in the aftertaste.  This beer is sweet and chewy, but not unpleasant.  The carbonation is not overwhelming, but enough to smooth out the sweetness and cleanse the palate for your next sip.

Mash is very complex.  As it warms, the alcohol becomes quite pronounced in the aroma, but the taste remains very smooth, without the booziness that is noticeable in many other high alcohol beers.  In my opinion, this is one of the best barley wines on the market.  I prefer it to Stone’s Old Guardian (which I also like) – Mash is more in the English style (it’s not a hop bomb like Old Guardian) and is similar to Firestone Walker’s Sucaba.

I sampled Mash from a 750 ml bottle given to me by my daughter, Rosie, for Father’s Day.  It’s currently available at Total Wine for $19.99.  That’s pretty expensive, but well worth it (in fact, I have another bottle in my refrigerator right now).  I HIGHLY recommend Mash!

Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale: Abita Brewing, Abita Springs, LA.  9.5% ABV.
Bourbon Street is a Pale Ale aged in bourbon barrels.  It is very high in alcohol for a pale ale (I’m sure the bourbon barrel aging has something to do with that).  This beer is a medium to dark orange color with a creamy white 3/4″ head that remains for a couple of minutes before fading to a thin covering over the top.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla, caramel and coconut.

The flavor is sweet malt, caramel and a slight, nice vanilla sweetness.  It is not overly sweet, as the hops balance it, to keep it in the American Pale Ale category.  The balanced sweetness fades to a nice vanilla and coconut in the aftertaste, courtesy of the bourbon barrel.  The vanilla/coconut lingers for quite awhile (very pleasant).

Bourbon Street has a medium carbonation level, commensurate with the Pale Ale style, but it is higher than most bourbon barrel aged beers.  This carbonation helps to keep the sweetness under control, and gets your mouth ready for the next swallow.

I sampled this beer from a  22 oz. bomber purchased from Total Wine for $9.99.  I think this might be limited release, so I’m not sure if it’s readily available.  Overall, this is a very nice beer, and one I can recommend.  I’ve never had a bourbon barrel aged pale ale before.  This one is nicely done.  Good job, Abita!

Fogcutter Double IPA: Lost Coast Brewery, Eureka, CA.  8.7% ABV.
Fogcutter pours a murky golden yellow with a 1/2″ white head, which fades to a fairly thick ring that leaves extensive lacing.  The aroma is mild citrus and floral.  The flavor is typical DIPA – bittersweet.  The malty sweetness is balanced out by the hoppy, citrus flavor that leaves a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.

Fogcutter is rated at 80 IBU, which is on the lower end of the Double IPA category, but I think it is more balanced than many DIPA’s.  The medium body and carbonation level help lend a balanced feel to the flavor.  The alcohol content (8.7%) is substantial, but not overwhelming and is not noticeable in the taste.  If you drink it on an empty stomach, you will definitely get the effect, but you won’t be wiped out.  Many DIPA’s tend to be out of balance (in my opinion) – too thick and sweet – but Lost Coast has this one dialed in just right!

I had never heard of Fogcutter until I received a 22 oz. bomber from Phil Colias a couple of weeks ago.  As I recall, he randomly selected this beer and had never tried it before.  Well, Phil, good choice, and thank you for the wonderful beer.  I highly recommend Fogcutter and will be buying more in the future.  It’s moderately priced at $8.99 for a 22 oz. bottle at Total Wine.

So, there you have it.  Bourbon Street and Fogcutter are moderately priced; Mash is expensive.  Each of them, however, is worth the price of admission.  I can highly recommend all three of these beers, but especially Mash.  Caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers and cheapskates, don’t even bother – you’re not sophisticated enough.

There’s a lot happening at Mac’s Brew Pub and I hope to have a newsletter out in the next couple of weeks.  That’s all I have time for now, but check back soon for the lowdown on Mac’s Brew, and for additional beer reviews.

Sláinte!