Our Special Ale & Sublimely Self Righteous Ale

I’ve really been enjoying a wide variety of beers since Mac’s Brew is in very limited quantities right now.  Here are a couple more, and I wanted to get the Our Special Ale review out right away because it’s currently in season and will be available for only a short time.  I just finished drinking it (actually, I’m still drinking it while writing this).

Our Special Ale (2012): Anchor Brewing, San Francisco, California.  5.5% ABV.  I am still drinking this ale as I write this review (11-26-2012) and am really enjoying it.  Every year Anchor brews a winter warmer for the holidays, and every year it’s a different recipe.  I still have a magnum of their 2011 release in my beer refrigerator (it was very good last year), but it’s time to drink a 2012 version.

This beer pours a deep ruby red, slightly lighter than Guinness.  It has a creamy beige head, about 1.5″ deep.  The aroma is quite sweet and fruity – very pleasant.

The flavor is well balanced, fruity, sweet, but not nearly as sweet as the aroma would suggest.  There is no hoppiness noted in the flavor, but there is an ever-so-slight bitterness (maybe the dark grains?).  The fruitiness fades, leaving a nice malty caramel aftertaste on the palate. It leaves nice lacing on the glass.  The carbonation level is fairly low, and the beer has a light to medium body.  I’m not sure what the spices are in this brew, and I won’t guess, but they lend a nice flavor to this winter warmer (winter beers are typically spiced with holiday type spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.).

This is a very enjoyable winter warmer, although at 5.5%, the alcohol content is a little lower than the typical winter warmer (usually over 6% ABV).  That’s ok, as you could easily be tempted to drink much more of this beer (like a fairly strong session ale).  I say go ahead , indulge  yourself and drink a lot of it.  It’s available in 12 oz bottles and 50.7 oz magnums.  I think I just might buy a magnum and enjoy it with friends during the holidays.  God bless Fritz Maytag (that’s another great beer story)!

Sublimely Self Righteous Ale: Stone Brewing, Escondido, California.  8.7% ABV.  I’ve had this particular beer on numerous occasions, but on November 15th I got a growler filled at the Stone Brewery in Escondido.  This review is based on the 2 liter growler I drank (and shared with others on Thanksgiving Day).

This ale is a dark, dark ruby red with a medium tan head about 1.5″ thick (poured into a pint glass).  The foam was quite creamy, and remained forever.  The aroma is hoppy, like an IPA.

The flavor is citrus, hoppy like a nice IPA.  The body is medium to heavy.  The hoppy bitterness fades to a nice chocolaty flavor.  The chocolate lingers in the aftertaste, leaving a nice stout-like coffee/chocolate flavor in the mouth.

Overall, this beer is definitely an IPA, but with some nice additional dark grain flavors.  When I initially tasted Sublimely Self Righteous (a couple of years ago), it was the first time I had ever had a black IPA, and I was not impressed.  In fact, I didn’t like it, but forced myself to drink it, not wanting to waste high quality craft beer.  I have had it several times since then, and have also had several other black IPA’s from numerous other breweries.  I have come to really respect black IPA’s and now enjoy drinking them (that’s obvious – other wise I would not have filled a two liter growler with it).  The draft version of Sublimely Self Righteous Ale is better than the bottled version.  I really enjoyed it from the growler and would most likely fill a growler with it in the future.  It’s a very tasty beer, and I highly recommend it.

Next Tuesday is Beer Appreciation Night at BJ’s in Brea.  This will be their American Winter Warmers night (that’s always the theme for the December Beer Appreciation Night).  I have gone to several December beer appreciations in the past, have always tasted some new/different winter warmers, and each time end up purchasing some during the holiday season.  I have no doubt it will be the same this year and look forward to the event.  Cheers!

Sculpin IPA & Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout

Mac’s Brew Pub is still on hiatus while the home remodel is being completed.  While I’m running out of Mac’s brew, the local Total Wine store is still well stocked with good beer.  I’ve been trying a lot of different brews and taking note of my observations. Hopefully these reviews give you some ideas and convince you to try something different.

Sculpin IPA: Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, CA.  7.0% ABV, 70 IBU.  I bought a six pack ($13.99) and tasted this beer (although not for the first time) on October 25, 2012.  It pours a clear golden yellow, with a very limited white head that rapidly faded (typical for an IPA).  It has a nice hoppy, citrus but sweet aroma.

This is a light bodied beer with a dry, bitter citrus and piney flavor.  This is all about the hops as the malt definitely takes a back seat.  However, this is not over the top like Pliny the Elder or Ruination.  This is a real nice thirst quencher and I recommend serving it ice cold.  I did notice, however, that the malt character comes forth as the ale warms.

The Ballast Point web site offers the following description: The Sculpin fish has poisonous spikes that can give a nasty sting.  The meat is considered very tasty, and just like the beer, “something that has a sting but tastes great.”

Sculpin IPA won a gold medal at the 2012 World Beer Cup.  I recommend this beer to any IPA drinker, but it’s not the best IPA (that distinction, in my opinion goes to Knuckle Sandwich, by Bootleggers Brewery in Fullerton), and I still prefer Stone IPA as an everyday IPA (more citrus, less pine flavor).

Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout: Stone Brewing, Escondido CA.  9.6% ABV.  This is a Stone collaboration ale, conceived and brewed in conjunction with Iron Fist Brewing and Ken Schmidt’s Aloha Plenty Brewing Company.  It was brewed with cocoa and mint (hmm, maybe that’s why it’s called Mint Chocolate).  I sampled the beer from a 12 oz bottle on October 28, 2012, purchased from Total Wine for $2.99.

This beer is pitch black with a thick, dark tan head.  The aroma is (surprise!) chocolate mint – think of the mints left on the pillow in your hotel room (you don’t get those on your pillow at the No-Tell Motel, but if that’s where you stay, you probably won’t be drinking this beer or any other craft brew, so never mind).

The main flavor is chocolate.  The mint is very subdued, but it comes through in the after taste.  No hop bitterness is noted, but it is not at all sweet like most imperial stouts.  The bitterness I noted seems to be from the cocoa and/or the dark grains.  As it warms in the glass, the mint aroma significantly increases, as does the flavor late on the palate and in the after taste.

Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout is 9.6% ABV, but I noted no hint of alcohol in the taste.  Chocolate is the main flavor until it warms , then the mint comes through.  As previously stated, this is not your typical imperial stout.

This beer has lots of body with a thick, viscous mouth feel.  It’s not thirst quenching, but is very flavorful.  It’s a nice dessert  beer, and I would suggest drinking it with a piece of chocolate cake or with some chocolate candy.    Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout is a very unusual beer, but quite good.  I highly recommend it (better look for it soon if you’re interested; it’s getting hard to find as it was released/distributed a few months ago).

Thanksgiving day is upon us and once again it’s time to reflect on all of our blessings. Thank you Lord, and please bless the United States of America.