The holidays were a beery time for me, but it's tough to put it on a timeline. It was that kind of holidays, where you lose track of what weekday it is, and what you might be doing otherwise. All of your routines, out the window, and all that's left is the original Star Wars (on VHS), lots of chocolate (Ferrero Rocher), and beer.
But the beer was so good I don't feel like talking crap on any beer. I mean, Bagby Beer wasn't what I wanted it to be, and there were some downturns here and there, but let's focus on the good. It's a new year. So for this week, we have the good and the great. That's what I have for you.
At least you know, that if you get one of these beers, it's good. You will enjoy it. I promise.
(And most of them are worth seeking out.)
Wicked Weed Oblivion Blackberry Flanders Red
Wicked Weed Amorous Hoppy Sour
AleSmith Speedway Stout (Vietnamese Coffee)
AleSmith .394 Pale Ale
Treehouse Haze IPA
Modern Times Mega Fortunate Island IPA
4Hands Alter Ego Black IPA
Off Color Apex Predator
Orpheus The Ferryman BA Stout
Those Wicked Weed sours came to me via Harris King and Brad Blackburn, and I have to give them credit. They really returned serve on my Russian River sours and pales package that I sent them. The first reminded me of one of my favorite beers, Almanac Citra Sour, in that it had good sour and hop characteristics, and also provided a glimpse of how there might even be a better version of this in the future. The Amorous was thick and jammy, but also fresh and fruity and tart. That's something we'll see more brewers try to emulate, I think -- like Rare Barrel's Wise Guise (a blend between their blonde sour and their dark blackberry Ensorcelled) -- pairing the dark with the light and the sweet (and the thick) with the tart (and the quick) is a pathway into the hearts of men. A particular kind at least.
I was eating a hamburger and thinking that the place (hamburger factory or some poop, complete with a six foot tall wooden chief and wooden benches), and the burger (sriracha sauce, crispy-fried red onions, a fried egg, two patties, and some extra sauce of some kind, all on a buttered bun), combined to be a ridiculous thing, and then I remembered that I was drinking AleSmith's .394 Tony Gwynn inspired pale ale out of a pitcher while doing that ridiculous thing, and so then I sighed and enjoyed the burger and the beer. All together, they made for a fun afternoon. We even bought some Koi afterwards, and I got pick two out.
A little while later, at Bottlecraft, I had one of my top five favorite beers of all time in a taster set. Four ounces of vietnamese coffee sweetness on a coffee stout of great renoun. San Diego always finds a way to tickle your nuts.
That isn't to say that the .394 is *better* than these other pales I encountered. Because I encountered some of the best pale ales in the country slash world. That Treehouse Haze IPA is amazing -- full of grass, stone fruit, brightness, freshness, thickness and yet sharpness -- and I'll go far just to drink more of their beers. That Modern Times Mega Fortunate Islands proves that sometimes you can just double up a great beer and it's even greater. And 4Hands' take on the black IPA probably outshines my former favorite, the Wookie Jack from Firestone Walker. Just a little bit easier to drink.
I had a smoked sea salt and something or other gose from Stone Liberty Station this weekend and can I tell you, maybe I don't like smoked beers. Because I gave it half a star and would throw it at the next person that handed it to me. Why add the thick smoke of a campfire to the salted freshness of a light cocktail? It doesn't make any sense. Westbrook's version is perfect -- light, airy, sweet, salty, fresh -- you could drink that through an entire horse race and it would make more sense than the crap people prefer.
The Apex Predator was not a stylistically natural saison. This beer is pitched cold, but emerges fruity. And then it's dry-hopped with Crystal to accentuate the fruit. So you get what I described as a peppery mango tart saison. If you can, go get this beer. More than Off Color's others, that I've had so far.
I drank all the pale ales before I went to San Diego for ten days. Maybe that's a bit militant about freshness, because I came back to a house full of World's Best Backup Plan (Lagunitas IPA) and stouts and sours. So the sours went over well, but the stouts are mine, I guess. This one I enjoyed by myself after everyone was asleep. Vanilla! Dark, what I would describe as cherry notes. A little bit of bitter, but not much -- thanks very much for sending me beers from Atlanta!
Kern River Winter Ale
Modern Times Comet Rider Brett IPA
Stone Enjoy After 12/16/15 Brett IPA
Sierra Nevada Wild Hop
El Segundo Broken Skull IPA
NoDa Hoppy Holidays
Bagby Beer Reconnoiter Porter
I have another Kern River heading to me via car, and I think it might be better. Not to say that their Winter Ale wasn't great, but it was 'just' a fresh Kern River IPA. A bit more fruit and I might fall in love. Kern River is the best thing between Orange County and San Jose, but they consistently pump out really great pale ales.
I had some Modern Times City of the Sun (fresh and fruity) once, and then Comet Rider Brett IPA both at the FLAVORDOME tasting room in North Park as well as (by accident) Bottlecraft and then (on purpose) at home. I loved the beer each time, but each time was a slightly different version, since Bottlecraft mind-melded with MT to make one of them, not all of them, and then the bottles were a different run, or I don't know, I probably had this conversation four times and don't remember it well. But the result is a fresh fruity brett IPA, which was probably even a little better than Stone's Enjoy After, or at least I didn't have to wait a year. (The Comet Rider is more fruity, but the Enjoy After was thicker and more mouthfeely, if I am to be fair.)
I'm fairly confident in saying now that if you're going to go to a bar in San Diego, you should go to Small Bar. It's in University Heights, so you'll have to cab it to North Park if you want to change things up, but the list there is consistently great. I mean, I had a Bell's Cherry Stout, that Sierra Nevada Wild Hop, and the El Segundo, and the only one that was meh (Bell's) was the one I branched out on my own.
As the bartender promised, the Wild Hop from Sierra Nevada and the Broken Skull from El Segundo were both grassy fruity IPAs. My only problem was that they didn't have the mouthfeel or the grassyness of the East Coast beers. They weren't the same. My expectations probably ruined them for me. They are both slightly grassy mostly fruity West Coast IPAs, at least, even if they aren't Sante Adairius or Cellermaker.
The NoDa was good and I enjoyed it. It was also a pine blast to the face, in both good and bad ways. The Bagby beer? More to come.