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!

Monsters’ Park & Xocoveza Charred

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It’s that time of the year when dark beers are plentiful and satisfying.  Here are reviews of two more dark beauties, both loaded with flavor and character.  Please read responsibly.

Monsters’ Park: Modern Times Beer, San Diego, CA.  12% ABV.
Modern Times Beer in San Diego makes one of my favorite coffee stouts, Black House.  Monsters’ Park is their Imperial Stout, and it is definitely a monster compared to Black House.  The description on the label states, “Monsters’ Park is a hulking, cantankerous imperial stout sporting a brawny malt bill and a dry, lingering finish.”

Monsters’ Park pours black with a 3/4″ cocoa colored head that faded rapidly but left a nice ring around the top edge that remained throughout the entire session.  The aroma is semi-sweet dark chocolate.  The flavor is sweet coffee with a little chocolate.  The chocolate lingers on the tongue, then fades to a slight sweetness, typical of imperial stouts.  This sweetness, however, is well balanced with hops.

The body and mouthfeel is thick, but the CO2 peel helps to mitigate the thickness just a bit.  There is a nice lingering semi-sweet chocolate note in the aftertaste.  Although it’s 12% ABV, it is not the least bit boozy or hot.  In fact, it is a deceptively smooth, easy drinking stout; but watch out, it will kick your butt!  As it warms, the alcohol aroma appears, but it’s not overwhelming.  At 60° F or above, there is more coffee, more chocolate, and more booze – in other words, more flavor and aroma.  I recommend you let this one warm up to 55° – 60° before drinking; it’s well worth it!

I sampled Monsters’ Park from a 22 oz. bomber I purchased at Total Wine for $12.99.  It’s worth the price, but I’m not sure it’s still available (I sampled it in November – sorry for the delay in posting the review).

Xocoveza Charred (2015 Series): Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  10% ABV.
Have I ever mentioned I like Stone beers?  This is another good one.  Xocoveza Mocha Stout is a Christmas Season beer that Stone releases each year.  It’s a stout described (by Stone) as, “an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate brewed with cocoa, coffee, chile peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.”  Xocoveza Charred is the same beer aged for 3 months in bourbon barrels.

Xocoveza Charred is pitch black with a 1/4″ light cocoa colored head that faded very rapidly to a ring around the edge.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla and oak.  The flavor is a little bit of chocolate, and a little coffee.  Vanilla is evident mid palate, but fades to a sweet chocolate, with vanilla notes lingering.  The oak/vanilla notes are very subdued and could stand some extra emphasis.  This beer features a medium body, but would benefit from additional mouth feel.

Although this is a bourbon barrel aged beer, the vanilla and oak flavors are not pronounced enough.  However, those flavors overwhelm the spiciness of the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout, which is a little disappointing.  This iteration looses the cinnamon/nutmeg and pepper notes that are so evident in the original version, which is too bad.  Since the barrel aging cut down on the spiciness of the original, the vanilla/coconut flavors derived from the bourbon barrel need to be more pronounced to compensate for the loss.

Xocoveza Charred is a very good beer, but does not have the flavor intensity of the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout.  Knowing what the original tastes like, I was a little disappointed because the spices are lost to the barrel.  The original is an excellent beer; barrel aging should improve/intensify the flavor and complexity, but in this case it actually detracts.  Too bad; maybe it should be aged in the barrel for a longer period of time.

I sampled this beer from a 500 ML corked bottle, which I received as a gift from my father for Christmas.  Thanks, Dad!

So what about these two beers?  I can recommend both, as they are high quality, flavorful examples.  Monsters’ Park is an excellent Imperial Stout and worth the cost, if it’s still available (I haven’t seen it around lately).  Xocoveza Charred is very good, but not as good as the original underlying base beer, Xocoveza Mocha Stout.  Charred sells for $18.99 for a 500 ML bottle at Total Wine; the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout is $15.99 for a six pack (12 oz. bottles).  Like I said, Xocoveza Charred is very good, but for the money I recommend the original Xocoveza – you won’t be disappointed (unless you like only fizzy yellow beer).

Slainte!