Having a regular beer store is pretty important to the experience. That relationship has a two-way impact on your craft beer selection. You can give feedback -- verbal and economic -- and they can help curate your experience. Those with a strong bond with their beer person often have special surprises saved for them, which is great, but they've surely also learned a lot about distribution and what is available throughout the process.
But having a regular beer store also helps you stay on top of freshness. This weekend, I took a chance with a few beers from breweries from disparate places, breweries with an inconsistent track record when it comes to freshness. I took that chance because I knew what my beer place normally had, and I knew these beers were new, at least to the store. So far, so good.
And, because I have a good relationship with the procurer of these beers, I also have the peace of mind to know that if these beers aren't fresh, I can pass that knowledge on, and the distributor will hear about it. It's difficult to get a beer from Sweden to California and keep it fresh, but if it's a grassy, fruity IPA, it's not worth doing if you can't do it right.
Mikkeller Spontandryhop Citra Sour
Lagunitas Born Yesterday Fresh Hop Pale Ale
I agree with those that say that Mikkeller is hit and miss and freshness is super difficult for them, as a contract brewer based somewhere in the ether between Europe and America. I'll probably stay away from their pale ales because of it. And I probably should have stayed away from a dry hopped sour, but I couldn't resist, and as I said, it was new to the store. I'm glad I had this, even if I much prefer the Almanac Citra Sour. With Mikkeller, the melon was there, the tart finish was there, but Almanac had a bit more mouthfeel and complexity. At six dollars a can, Mikkeller's version is not cheap when figured per ounce, but at least someone new to the style wouldn't have to put down a thirty dollar initial investment to decide if they like sours. I'd call it a decent introduction sour, if a little tart, for that reason.
And I suppose this was an enjoy by date? Rather unhelpful, even if you try to read it as a European version of a date (day then month) because no idea what happens on June 22, 2017.
Loma Brewing Kolsch
Loma Brewing Pale Ale
Loma Brewing IPA
Loma Brewing Dry Stout
Loma Brewing Ruphus Brown
Omnipollo Mackaper Pale Ale
Track 7 Blood Transfusion Wheat IPA
I'm going to do a full writeup on my trip to Loma Brewing in Los Gatos, since I talked to the owner and head brewer, but it was an enjoyable Friday lunch I spent there, eating a fried chicken sandwich and drinking samplers.
Back on the homefront, I had another risky beer. I couldn't find a date on the Omnipollo beer, and it was another beer from Europe, so I could have passed. But if I have to be honest, the first grassy fruity IPA I ever had (Nebuchadnezzar) was from Omnipollo and they'll always have a place in my heart for it. Plus -- you have have heard this before -- it was new to my store, so I thought it might be fresh.
I'm glad I took the chance. Mackaper is a hazy bright galaxy pale ale that's listed as an Australian pale ale, whatever that means. If you haven't had an Omnipollo pale, take the chance. That grassy, tropical thing they do might seem more familiar these days, but they've been at it since 2011 in a galaxy far far away. Or Sweden.
The Track 7 was a leap for me as well, but only because some wheat IPAs get too thick and wheaty and yeasty for me. I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with 3 Floyd's Gumballhead, for example. Maybe the recipe has change, maybe I've changed, but wheat beers are not a first choice for me. This one I liked because it was clear and refreshing for a wheat IPA. The blood orange brought sweetness, but none of it was cloying or syrupy. I'll have another Track 7, for sure.
Coronado Guava Islander IPA
Beachwood Brewing Propagation Series 5.2e5 Sour
Modern Times Sleepless City w/Vanilla & Cocoa Nibs
So I thought, when I first poured myself some of the Guava Islander, that here was yet another way to have your NEIPA type slightly bitter, nice mouthfeel, fruity IPA -- just pour fruit juice in. But it's not very grassy, the mouthfeel is more conventional, and... there was no haze, just bubbles on my apparently dirty glass:
Well then we drank some more and I gave myself the last half cup and wow check that out.
There's your milkshake IPA! Anyway, I like Islander a lot, and this guava version was excellent, at least the first version. The last bit was a bit murky, though, so I don't recommend pouring chunky unfiltered juice into your IPA, as good as the first two thirds was.
That Beachwood sour was another chance on a risky weekend. Not because of the label -- so far Beachwood has only been excellent in my experience -- but because of the choices they made in this particular beer. It's an ancho chile cucumber Berliner Weisse. Chile makes me nervous, because I once had a Chile Cave beer with the chile still inside and it was like inhaling literal fire water maybe. And I won't lie, there were moments where I didn't love this beer. But as the chile subsided a bit, it made a great pairing with the sour finish to a mild cucumber Weisse.
Finished the night with a brown with cocoa and vanilla in it, which was a bit weird. You taste the vanilla and chocolate and think it's time for a thick syrupy dessert double stout, but the finish is roasty and thinner like a brown. Once you get past the surprise, though, it's a very enjoyable brown with complex taste.
Stillwater Pineapple Fields Sour IPA
The Bruery Ride That Bear Imperial Brown
I didn't get a ton of IPA from the Stillwater. More like a light sour with a little softness to it in the middle and then a tart finish. The pineapple came from hops, so I'd call it a hoppy sour, and if you go in with that expectation you'll probably say 'not very sour but very easy to drink.' The sage gave that herbal spice that made it a bit more than your typical hoppy sour, and the mouthfeel had some jam to it, so it's a good beer. I don't know why I'm not giving it rave reviews, it checks most of my boxes but didn't get my juices flowing.
Drain poured the Ride That Bear, don't tell my brother in law, who believes in No Drink Poured Out. It was too hoppy too boozy too thick to be a brown. I had a great brown this weekend! This was not it.
Thank goodness we had that Lagunitas Born Yesterday around all weekeend. Made all the risks worth it because I had a great backup plan.