Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Put on your red shoes...

...and Dance the blues.

Too much of a good thing?  Nonsense.  Indulge me, please.  Lately it seems like every month I've got some new Boulevard Smokestack bottle to track down and frankly, I love it.  With more on the way I find myself absolutely giddy over what's to come.  BBQ?  Yes!  Imperial Stout?  Oh God yes.  This week we land on the new Harvest Dance Wheat Wine Style Ale.  Admittedly I'm very new to the style and...well, if I'm being totally honest I have to divulge at this point that I've never, ever even heard of a wheat wine style ale, let alone tried one.  However, being a rather HUGE  fan of American barley wines I naturally found myself very excited over the news that Boulevard was releasing a wheat-based version.  My excitement at least doubled when I happened to walk into Gomer's this afternoon to find case on top of case of it.

After spending the necessary (and totally arbitrary) one and a half hours inside my refrigerator I decided the bottle was plenty cool and it was time to journey into completely undiscovered country, which I believe any beer geek will agree after several years in the hobby is a fantastic and increasingly rare experience.  I'm delirious by the time I remove the cork...honestly, I've turned to using a corkscrew.  I tilt the bottle and...oh my...this has to be the thickest, frothiest head I think I've seen yet.  As the picture will contend, there was about as much foam as there was beer in the glass, following an exceedingly gentle pour.  After some reading I'm finding that this is a common experience with this particular brew and certainly made for one beautiful beer.

I probably go on a little too much about the appearance of beers but I really must say the color of this one is superb.  A striking reddish amber capped by a slowly receding off-white head makes for one truly enticing beer.  The head recedes to a thin crown that lasts throughout the session with medium lacing leftover.  The smell is very tart, with lots of fruit and yeast along with a very strong citrus smell that kind of reminds me of the Two Jokers from earlier this year.  Mouthfeel is thin and bubbly, with a smoothness that is possibly due to the strong head retention and certainly adds to the drinkability of the beer.  The taste is somewhat tart, with a lot of sour fruit and a citrus hop flavor accompanied by an ever-present alcoholic dryness...this one makes no secret of its 9.1% abv.  The whole thing is followed up with a very strong oak finish, which came on a bit heavy but certainly added a lot to the character of the brew.

This is a very drinkable beer, despite the high alcohol content.  While I'm generally not one to suggest splitting a bottle, I admit there are some brews that might justify such an otherwise heinous action.  This is not one of them, however, although I can't imagine finding myself wanting more after the bottle runs dry.  Maybe it was just my palette but I found this beer oddly refreshing, and with a name change wouldn't have thought it out of place as a mid-summer release, but perhaps that's due my lack of experience with the style.  All said and done, I really enjoyed the Harvest Dance, and hope to see it again this time next year.  Meanwhile I plan on finding myself another bottle to lay down for a few months to see if that strong oak finish is rounded out just a bit.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's The Great Pumking

Few things can divide a crowd quite the way pumpkin ales can.  Purists will contend that pumpkin ales should be strictly pumpkin-flavored, while others seem to prefer a nice autumnal, pumpkin spice flavor.  Personally, I'm more of a "pumpkin pie" kind of guy, which may be why I enjoyed Southern Tier's Pumking as much as I did.  This one is essentially pumpkin pie in a bottle...with whipped cream on top.

First things first: cool label.  Unfortunately the beer itself doesn't go above and beyond to bring home any style points but simply looking at it won't get me drunk so I'll let it slide.  The color was a nice clear burnt orange but the small bubbly head receded to nothing within minutes with minimal lacing.  The smell, however, was heavenly: sweet and earthy with the spices weighing in significantly heavier than the pumpkin itself.  Mouthfeel was thin and smooth with medium carbonation, fairly typical for the style from my experience.  The taste was candy-sweet and creamy with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg complimenting a very mild pumpkin flavor.  The whole thing is wrapped up by a notable hop presence and mildly astringent finish thanks to the 9% abv.  I personally found it difficult to sip, instead having to fight temptation to go in for the kill and chug the remainder of the glass each time I tasted it.  This is an extremely drinkable brew...

To conclude, if you find yourself on the conservative, squashy pumpkin pulp side of the Great Pumpkin Ale Debate, you'll likely find very little to enjoy here.  To my palette the pumpkin seemed like an afterthought to a variety of seasonal spices.  On the other hand, if you've ever wanted to catch a buzz off a pumpkin pie, this is the beer for you.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sloppy Seconds - The Seeyoulator Doppelbock

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Like a kid on Christmas or the guy next in line at an AVN-sanctioned gangbang, I found myself becoming increasingly impatient. The St. Louis folks said the new Smokestack doppelbock was on their shelves and had been for a while, yet it was no where to be found in Boulevard's own city. To further stomp out any sense of hometown pride, no one on the other side of the counters had even heard of this so-called 'Seeyoulator', let alone had even the slightest idea of when we could expect it on their shelves. Sigh. How does such an industry still live in such dark times? Why is it that I can pinpoint to the hour when the next Michael Bay flick is to be released on DVD, yet the street date of something even as profound as the next of the beloved and much talked about Smokestack release from Boulevard is treated with such obscurity as to make the MiB's proud?

Admittedly, at this point I'd about lost interest. Being something of an old-school (at heart) advocate of fine (and not so fine) brews, I have long preferred to actually drive to my favorite getting spots to secure whatever was on my mind at the time. Being the case, many a mile has been put on my car and many a disappointed return trip from the old Gomer's has been had lately looking for this reclusive release. I assume most can imagine my surprise then, to find dozens of bottles of the Seeyoulator in a chance encounter with a Berbiglia's this evening. Wasting no time, the once elusive bottle was immediately refrigerated to await my judgement.

Doppelbock. Although it's not a style I'm extremely familiar with, I have indeed done my research. One thing I went into this encounter with was the expectation of a loaf of bread in a bottle, and I'm somewhat happy to report that this ended up being fairly accurate. The first thing I noticed upon pouring was the astonishing presentation. Boulevard has once again outdone themselves in this category. The color was an enthralling shade of the deepest crimson with perhaps the most lovely off-white head I've seen yet, the density of which is unmatched in my, admittedly shallow, experience. Ironically, no camera was present at the time of pouring so you'll just have to see it for yourself, or fancy on over to the KC Beer Blog for some choice shots from the wonderful new Smokestack goblet. Jealous indeed.

Honestly, I didn't get much by way of smell on this one: bread and wood seemed to rule the day here. Whether it's the style or the limitations of my own nasal cavity is something I'll leave up to the winds, but I suspect most imbibers will spend less time sniffing and more time sipping. The mouthfeel isn't so thick that you'll likely feel the need to chew, but it is a bit more substantial than the usual fare around the self-professed Bad Beer Blog. Taste is a tad more difficult to describe. The Seeyoulator kind of forces my hand here, leaving me to declare that this is undoubtedly the single most complex beer I've ever tasted. There, I said it and I won't take it back. Good or bad, it really depends on what you like, but I think few will argue that there is an awful lot to experience in this bottle. Up front is an incredibly sweet, malty bread flavor, which I found quite endearing, surprising given my tendency toward the distinctly west coast American "hop bomb". The next thing you'll likely notice is a rather wowing amount of cedar woodiness that will carry you on to a very mild hoppy, astringent alcohol finish. To sum it up, if you've ever wondered what a cedar chip sandwich would taste like, this is your meal in a bottle. In terms of complexity, I'm slightly disappointed in my palate for missing a few of the notes that other reviews seemed to have picked up on, but that's something that I'm certain future bottles will help with.

That being said, this is actually one of the only Boulevevard Smokestack bottles that I do fully intend to purchase again. So far I've found each entry into the Smokestack series* to be a delightful representative of it's style, yet for one reason or another, one bottle of each is all that I've purchased. Overall, I find this a difficult beer to rate based on the fact that there is an awful lot going on inside this bottle, and depending on your palate and taste, you may or may not exactly care for it. I found the cedar flavor particularly overwhelming, however it was also an endearing characteristic that personifies the same individuality that I've come to love and expect from Boulevard's Smokestack Series. One thing is for certain: love it or hate it, the Seeyoulator doppelbock is unique, and in the copycat beer world of Imperial this and Double that, tasteful uniqueness is a quality that I can certainly stand behind. Now, let's see to it that our faithful KC natives get the next one first, eh guys?

* Bourbon Barrel Quad and Saison Brett are excluded from this conversation, as a bottle of each rest peacefully in my basement waiting for just the right time to open, i.e. when more is released, nudge nudge.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What the French, Toast?

Anybody that's not in the St. Louis area able to find Boulevard's new Seeyoulator Dopplebock on shelves yet? Several posts on BeerAdvocate suggest that it's been available in STL for some time. Every place I go here in KC either hasn't heard of it, or has no idea when it's coming. They all have one thing in common, however: shock that our fine relatives across the state are enjoying this brew before us locals. Thoughts? Can it be?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The King Cobra

I’m sitting on the porch of our condo watching the sun set over the ocean outside Bandon, OR, and for once I’m actually enjoying my latest bad beer adventure. I don’t know if it’s the cool temperature and picturesque beach, or the day’s activities wearing me down, or maybe just the knowledge of what’s in the minifridge waiting for me to get to it, but this can of King Cobra is alright.

Pouring the clear, golden contents of the 24oz tall boy can into a lovely snifter, one of the few clean glasses remaining at my disposal, I soon relate the irony of drinking a $1.09 can of malt liquor from such a vessel to the absolutely stunning beach in front of me that lies on the outskirts of a run-down old Oregon town. The lovely pink and gray sunset over the hazy blue Pacific has me feeling reflective. Or maybe it’s the booze.

Smell is, as usual, about what you’d expect from this type of thing. Not much happening here but what there is won’t put you off drinking it, assuming you’ve made it this far. I have to recommend pouring this one, since it actually seems to benefit from a little breathing room. Taste is somewhat mild, but that’s not unexpected considering the fairly weak 6% ABV. Generally the alcohol is all you taste in something of this quality but not so here. What you will taste is sweet corn and little else, followed by a very mild, sweet finish, with a pleasant level of carbonation.

The full can done and gone, it’s time to say goodnight and go inside. While I can’t see myself actively seeking this one out closer to home, I can say with some certainty that this is the absolute easiest bad beer review I’ve done yet. Whether it’s the beer, the sunset, or just the adventure of trying something new, this one’s ok.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Greetings from the sand

You wake up early one morning and head to the airport. You try to check in to your flight only to realize it's been cancelled. You kill 3 hours at terminal C because you've already parked your car in long-term and refuse to go through that again. Eventually you arrive at your connecting flight only to learn that the connecting plane has been grounded due to 'technical issues'. Your gate changes. Your gate changes again. Hours later you board the plane and wait on the tarmac for what seems like an eternity only to find out that a seat back is broken and maintenance has been dispatched. Finally your plane is in the air and in 3 hours you land in Portland, where you'll wait 30 minutes for a rental car.

Sensing a trend? The journey was a trying one indeed, but well worth it on every level. Across 1800 miles I finally arrived at my destination: Beer Capital USA. My stay in Portland was a short one, but I'm following it with a seafool and beer-filled week on the Oregon coast so I have no complaints. I've packed a few bottles to keep me company throughout the week, and one or two to bring home. Thoughts on the Stone IPA in my hand will be posted shortly.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

O'Malley's SunRyes Ale

Note: Thought this would be fun. Here is a raw, unedited, unfinished two-part entry that was written sometime in late 2008, most likely at the same time that I was drinking the beer under review. I've not toned it down, and I haven't done my usual week-long "should I say that?" deliberation on phrasing and flow that usually goes into these entries. I never posted it because I felt like I was unable to politely convey my feelings toward this beer, but I've since decided that it doesn't matter. It's all in good fun and decent, drinking people deserve to know. Enjoy!

It was the sweet, rotten smell of decay that made me immediately dread taking my first sip of this abomination in a bottle. If I was drinking this for recreational reasons (read: to get drunk), I'd pour it into the nearest toilet right now. Tastes like rotten lemons. Made me pucker, it really is sour. I've never had anything like it, and I hope that other than the remaining bottle that will inevitably rest for ages in my tiny little beer fridge, I never will again.

Fast forward several weeks:

Whole second bottle to go through because I'm a cheap bastard and refuse to drain pour this worthless, sorry sack of shit excuse for a beer. O'Malley's Brewery, if by some cruel twist of fate you actually end up reading this, I sincerely hope that you really, very seriously consider buying back and destroying all distributed containers of this Devil's brew, burn the recipe, and strongly reconsider the wage you're paying the person who brews it. Honestly, is there anyone in Weston that tastes this crap before they bottle it?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Boulevard Two Jokers Double-Wit

When life hands you a lemony beer, drink it.  Yes, it's the latest (8th!) release in the well-received Smokestack Series from Boulevard.  Pouring this jewel into my lovely Smokestack chalice, I was immediately taken by it's beautiful hazy gold color and thick two-finger head.  I don't say this often, but this is a simply stunning beer that is absolutely enthralling to look at.

Smell follows the witbeir style with lots of orange peel, cloves and coriander.  The taste is sour and spicy, with a puckering citrus bite that would be a perfect refreshment on a hot day.  Following the theme of refreshment is the thin, highly carbonated mouthfeel, which adds to the almost infinite drinkability of this brew.  In fact, the only thing that reels me in from wanting to chug the entire glass is the stout 8% abv, which would gladly knock me firmly on my ass should I choose to not respect this beer.

All in all, this is a wonferful example of the good old American one-upsmanship that we've all come to love and expect from the craft beer industry.  Not satisfied with the standard every-man formula for a warm weather offering, Boulevard Brewing has worked magic yet again by putting their own twist on what is, in my humble opinion, a slightly uninsteresting style.  So much more than just an alcohol-infused high gravity wit, this beer seems to reveal something new with every sip. With an all-to-soon empty bottle beside me, I'm noticing that the label is conspicuously missing the 'collect them all' numbering found on the limited release beers from Boulevard.  Here's hoping that we can all look forward to many quiet summer evenings on the porch, sipping the pinnacle of locally available warm weather seasonals.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lucky Number 03608

In celebration of my 200th beer (that I remembered well enough to write down), I've decided that I'm taking a well-deserved break from the shitty beers for a moment. I've had a bottle of Boulevard Imperial Stout in my basement for a while now and it was high time I uncorked it before I forgot about it altogether. Speaking of the corks, I love them but I find removing them to be a bitch of a time without destroying the cork, which I like to keep for one reason or another. Suggestions?

This one pours very well into a nice tall glass, showing off a remarkable, almost solid black color with a thick, foamy off-white head. Smell is of roasted malts and coffee, a wonderful representation of the style. This is one thick, sticky beer, and I actually found myself resisting the urge to chew once in a while. All motor oil jokes aside, the mouthfeel is actually very pleasant, and is once again an excellent representation of the style. The taste is deep and rich, with a chocolaty-sweetness up front followed by a warming, bitter alcohol finish. This big, bad brewski makes no secret of the 11% abv...

...which brings us to confession time. I tend to poke fun at the people that feel the need to split their big bottles but I must admit about half way through this one I was starting to wish I had someone to split it with. Huge flavor and huge alcohol make this 750ml liquid titan almost a challenge to get though...a challenge I was more than up to but a challenge nonetheless. Don't get me wrong , it's infinitely likable, but like a fine bourbon it's best enjoyed in slightly smaller doses. So split it with a friend and enjoy the hell out of it, a beer like this comes along only so often.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Identity Crisis? The BEER That Made Milwaukee Famous

That's right muthabitches, it's Schlitz. I'd been meaning to pick up a big-ass can of Schlitz since I started this little waste of time but I kept putting it off for one reason or another...probably because it's gross. Since I don't really keep my ear to the ground in the bad beer circuit, I had no idea that Schlitz was about to reinstate their old 1960's recipe in an effort to capture the collective wallets of the Natural Light crowd. Since nothing says 'good beer' like the 1960's, I knew I had to have it. So what made this beer so great 40 years ago? After 5 bottles, I have no idea.

What to say about Schlitz? Well, not much really. The smell mostly consists of corn, not unlike many other by-the-case beers. Taste is pretty much the same. I can't quite say that's a bad thing, but I have a hard time commending it as well. For the first time in recollection, I really just don't care one way or another. It's not bad, per say. The problem is, unsurprisingly, it's just not that good. Would I order it over more common, better-advertised brews? Definitely. Would I suggest that everyone at the table do the same? Unlikely.

As far as taste goes, you can expect a little more than your average American macro, but as most back-of-the-cooler types know,that isn't always a good thing. In the case of Schlitz, I'm somewhat torn between cursing it's pedestrian corny, aluminum flavor and applauding it's effort to at least taste like something. If this were another of the super cheap, $10/case brews I would most certainly think more highly of it, but for the price I just can't recommend it. Simply put, this beer has no business whatsoever in the $6 six-pack game.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Old Milwaukee Light

My recent "research" has driven me farther and farther back into the darkest corners of walk-in coolers all over town. As most people know the good stuff's up front, leaving a veritable showroom of bottom shelf gutter runoff to choose from in the back. For those who value quantity over quality, look no further as most cases in this section of the store can be taken home for less than $10. They probably won't taste good, but they will most certainly get you drunk.

Trying to pace myself on the awful, it was only natural that I'd be drawn to the box with the awards on it. Enter Old Milwaukee Light, apparently one of the finer beers available, winner of the gold medal in the American-Style Light Lager category of the 2008 World Beer Cup over such other notables as Lone Star Light and Natural Light. Apparently Week-old Coffee and Dirty Bathwater didn't compete this year.

All funnies aside I have to admit that this beer wasn't really that bad. Really. I don't expect it to replace my beloved Miller High Life as the every day go-to beer of the summer, but there might actually come a day when I buy this one again. If you bother with a glass you're likely in for a surprise. Visually, it had all the things folks usually look for in a beer: thick, lingering off-white head with a surprising amount of web-like lacing that was present from start to finish. The taste was not overpowering but certainly more flavorful than most other catchy-labeled macro swill. No real hop presence or alcohol bitterness. In fact, it tastes about like you'd expect: slightly sweet with light malt flavors and a mild bitter finish. Just don't smell it. Please. Don't. Smell. It. Trust me.

So there it is. Next time you're tailgating, mowing the lawn or just in one of those quantity over quality kind of moods, give it a shot. The price is hard to beat and if you generally find yourself reaching for bottles of Bud/Miller/Coors Light, you may be surprised to find you actually enjoy beer-flavored beer. And if your friends give you shit, point to the Gold Medal on the can and keep drinking.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

With a name like that...

I don't know what possessed me to buy this, but being driven by a wicked combination of intense self-loathing, alcoholic gluttony and outright curiosity I decided that I had to have it. Lately I've been going through a kind of 'adventure consumables' phase. I won't detail my other exploits here but I will admit that they were unpleasant, with not one that I'd willingly return to. An imaginary line had been drawn in the sand, this can of Steel Reserve was to be my next conquest.

Staring at the giant silver can I'm reminded not slightly of Coors Light, which while not my favorite still has a generally enjoyable purpose. The contents of this container probably have a purpose too, but the only things that come to mind are a cruel form of torture and maybe de-greaser, given the high alcohol concentration (8.10 percent!). Unfortunately for me, however, Coors Light this isn't and keen to back down from a challenge I'm not.

The first thing anyone is likely to notice about a beer is the smell, and this one had little to offer along those lines other than the overwhelming smell of alcohol. That's right, alcohol. Like what you put on cuts and scrapes if you're a tough or mean son of a bitch, depending on whether you're treating yourself or the very unlucky kid that you must hate. If you've made it that far, you might as well give it a taste, which I unfortunately did. A lot of big beer brewers will at least attempt to cover up the high gravity with extra hops or some roasted chocolate or molasses flavors. Apparently the kind folks who brew Steel Reserve think that sort of nonsense is for pussies. What you'll taste is alcohol, and lots of it. The kind of alcohol that will put hair on your chest. The sweetness of the malts only seems to bring out the overpowering alcohol and with hardly any hop character to speak of this turns out to be a very burley, mean-spirited bastard of a beer. And not in a good way.

Whether you're using it as first aid for a gunshot wound or to treat a downswing from your bipolar disorder, despite tasting perfectly awful this beer does get at least one thing right: it will most assuredly get you window-licking drunk if you've got the palette to finish it. And the only way that is likely to happen is due to the ABV: by the time you down half the can, you probably won't really care what it tastes like any more. Bravo.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Camo 900 High Gravity Lager

The subject: Camo 900 High Gravity Lager.
The verdict: Sweet merciful Christ.

Up next is a beer that, looking back, had to be a mislabeled can of equal parts goat urine and Mad Dog 20/20 (the orange flavor). For what is probably the first time in my life I'm at a complete loss as to how to describe this beer. No clever puns. No awkward, self-referential over-your-head sarcasm. Not even a good penis joke. Plain and simple, this beer tasted like nail polish remover smells. At 9.0% abv, I think it might actually be a cheaper alternative to lighter fluid. And just as tasty!

As with any fine spirit in a can, the first thing you're likely to notice is the smell. Oddly enough, this actually has one. Think: cheap wine. No, cheaper. Cheaper. There, that's the one. On the bottom shelf in the gallon jug. As for flavor, mouthfeel, carbonation and appearance...well, who gives a rat's ass. This drank will get ya drunk on.

Bottom line: do not touch.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Did I say spark plug?

...what I meant was butt plug.

Up first on my journey through the dirty underbelly of the beer world (those to be had locally, anyway) is an interesting little number called Sparks Plus. Here before me is a can that I've passed over hundreds of times at my local supermarket. It's neither bold nor particularly exciting, quite contrary to the "extreme" label that this sort of thing tends to carry. This drink falls into that space that I've yet to explore, where uppers and downers are mixed and the end result is a kind of confusing mess of tired, jittery giddiness that can only come from a 7.0% abv, 1 pint 16oz can of alcoholic caffeine. And taurine. And guarana-ginseng blend. And natural flavor. And certified colors. And a little FD&C yellow number 5...you know, for flavor.  Maybe that's what the '+' means.

I have to admit at this point that I've already finished the entire can. In less than 5 minutes. I think it's the caffeine. You see, you have to prepare yourself for these things. You go into each "adventure consumable" experience assuming that this will not be pleasant. This will not be the kind of beverage that encourages sipping, to be enjoyed slowly over a few chapters of a nice book or an engaging convesation. You kind of steel yourself against the worst possible outcome, as if you're pouring a can of straight Devil's piss. Well, I'm happy to report that it actually wasn't that bad, kind of like a Red Bull but not as sickeningly sweet. I don't mean to imply that it was enjoyable by any means, but I can safely say I've had worse. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go run some laps around the house before I wash the cars, buff the floors and finally crash into the peaceful hibernation that usually follows this kind of energy rush. EXTREME!!!