Perhaps my favorite weekend of the year is the one early in March when I go to Arizona for the League of Alternative Baseball Reality draft. LABR is a fantasy baseball league that has been around for something like thirty years, and the people that come to play form a great collection of quirkiness -- all with a strong collective love of baseball.
I fly some beer in, and then visit a Total Wine to supplement, and am generally in charge of bringing craft beer to the afterparty. Most of the time, that's super fun, and this year was no different -- with a twist.
At points, I felt I *had* to stick to the beer and curate everyone's drinking experiences. At times when I wanted to perhaps talk about whatever, I ended up talking about beer. That's fine, it was a long party and I had a ton of great conversations.
But with a little different planning next year -- perhaps two coolers, one that is obviously open to anyone, and one that is for tastings -- I can have the best of both worlds. Because I did manage to get some really great beers in front of some good friends, and that is always a rewarding experience.
Oceanside Funk-N-Delicious Peche Sour
Noble Ale Works Big Whig IPA
The Hop Concept Dank & Sticky IPA
The Oceanside sour featured decent peach taste and terrible everything else: a terrible label (see the header image), a terrible watery mouthfeel, and then a terribly sour enamel-stripping sour finish that lingered uncomfortably like an ex girlfriend trying to remain friends. I think I would like the opposite of all three of those things way better: imagine a nice classy label with a thick mouthfeel and then a slightly tart quick fresh ending. I had that a few days later, actually, and it was glorious. The Oceanside was notorious.
I didn't rate the Big Whig because it had a 12/17/15 date, and I was worried that a fresher beer would have tasted more bright. But as it was -- and really, it's an okay born on date -- I thought it was nice and herbal with a great tangerine smell. Really makes me want to try more Noble.
Hop Concept nailed the titular aim with Dank & Sticky, but that taste profile is so old school, I just don't recommend it as a must-get beer. It did serve to remind me what I used to drink more often.
OHSO Pomelo Park IPA
Bell's Hopslam DIPA
Just a couple at OHSO, a great little spot in Phoenix where I was surprised by a visiting dignitary. The home field representative was a rye IPA missing the fruit that I need to really love the style. Rye Nelsons (aka Alpine Nelson) make the world go round, but Pomelo just was.
Hopslam is pretty ridiculous. There's so much honey sweetness and alcohol in that 10% ABV DIPA that it's tempting to deride it as overrated. But it's still great because there's enough floral hops crispness to make it well-balanced, at least on tap. I have a can and have heard it's more syrupy in the can. For what it's worth, if you can't get Pliny the Younger, Hopslam is pretty close. It's more floral, but otherwise it shares a lot in common with the beer that is fairly unattainable for people outside of California.
Tree House King Julius DIPA
COOP Alpha Hive DIPA
Sainte Adairius Saison Bernice
Tree House Curiosity 23 IPA
Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois (Apricot) Wild Ale
Jester King Le Petit Prince Farmhouse
Funkwerks Tropic King Saison
Modern Times Floating World IPA
Modern Times Mega Fortunate Islands DIPA
Deschutes Black Butte XXVII
Funkwerks Raspberry Provincial
Modern Times City of the Sun IPA
What a glorious evening. It started with a bang -- King Julius! King! Julius! Not only does it have that creamy mouthfeel and the grassy and fruity taste that makes Julius so awesome, but it had *more* of all of those things. More! What a glorious beer. Every new beer I have from Tree House makes me want to have more beers from Tree House. They might be my favorite brewery right now. The Curiosity didn't quite reach the level of the King -- which beers do? -- but it was an interesting melon, bubblegum, citrus IPA with their trademark milkshake look. So good.
The COOP is one of the best beers from Oklahoma, which is saying something. And not 'the soft bigotry of low expectations' as one drinker put it. More a congratulations at being the best at something. Unfortunately, when you zoom out, the Alpha Hive turns into a meh Hopslam clone -- it's all honey and malt and hops without any of the crispness of Hopslam, though.
The Saison Bernice! I need to go down to Santa Cruz again soon. The Bernice was thick and dirty like the best saisons, but also fresh and sour. Sour saisons are so good. This was the second-best beer of the night, and not by very far. It felt as innovative as a Tree House, so it's nice to have that closer to home. Trade for Sante Adairius if you can.
The Tahoe Mountain is just a really nice solid Apricot sour saison. A recommendation if you can find it while skiing. The Jester King didn't wow, but it was a nice table saison. Definitely a respite from all the Big Beers we were having. The Funkwerks was more of a favorite of mine, since it takes that table beer beginning and adds tropical funk.
The Modern Times I'd had before were an easy way to bring fun to the party. City of the Sun, Blazing World, Mega Fortunate Islands -- these are beers people will like, and they come in cans and are easy to transport. My bet is their distribution expands soon. And when it does, pounce. The Floating World was the only one I was having for a first time, and I really enjoyed it. It's grassy and fruity, but not as much as a Tree House. It was grassy, fruity, and light, and almost had a buzzy tartness to it.
The Black Butte and the Provincial hit the spot for one friend. He's a liquor guy, but was willing to try some beer. So I gave him two beers that were aged in barrels, of course. And he fucking loved them. He said the Black Butte was the best beer he'd had, and really, it's awesome. I don't know how it lost to Bourbon County Stout in our Beer Sport, I blame T-Bone. The Provincial lacked a bit of body and looked ridiculous (see below), but it was an okay sour and a good entry point into the style. Maybe we created a new beer drinker! It's not all hops! What a night!