Sometimes while standing in the beer aisle and contemplating life, I cannot decide what style of beer will be on my menu for the evening. With more and more quality beers showing up at my local grocer, it is starting to become a little overwhelming. When those beer panic attacks happen, I usually grab the nearest company sampler pack to cover all of the necessary beer bases. That was last night, and my choice came from the very respectable Sierra Nevada.
The Beer Camp sampler is quite amazing. Sure, a little early in the review, but let’s just get that out of the way. This sampler is in a whole different class of sampler, as the company runs a contest to bring in different home brewers to help make some interesting beers. Great concept, and even better execution. Let’s start part 1 with the Oatmeal Stout:
The beer pours pitch black, with a larger than normal tan head. The smells off of the top are of nice bitter chocolate, mixed with roasted malts. Tasting, this beer hits you with those familiar favors, but also with hints of coffee, and a small but noticeable hint of hops. Maybe it is just my mind playing tricks on me, but I always expect that familiar Sierra Nevada hop flavor with all of their products. I can taste a bit of hops though, and it makes this beer very smooth. To say that this beer is smooth and easy to drink would be an understatement. I would almost describe it as silky.
As per the norm, this beer ranks high for me. I love Sierra Nevada’s products, and this beer is no different. This is the quintessential stout in my house now. Yes, I just said that about Founders Breakfast Stout a couple weeks ago. This beer tops it. Hands down. My new favorite stout, and now placed into my top 5.
Well done Sierra Nevada, now put this beer in a six pack. Or at least a single big bottle.
Once again, I dig deep into the wonderful vault of Sierra Nevada. One of the early craft brewers, they consistently toss out beer after beer that ranks very high in my beer opinion. Very rarely do I have a drink from them that I do not enjoy. Their stout does come to mind though. Anyway, let’s pick the vine of Hoptimum, in their words, “the biggest whole cone IPA” that they have ever produced.
This beer pours like every IPA wishes they could, in a beautiful amber with an off white head that sticks to your glass. The aromas are what you would expect from a beer with 100 IBUs; hops, glorious hops. The smell is very flower like as well, with a touch of pine. Start to drink this, and you will be bombarded with the amazing hop flavors. This beer almost has a thick feeling, with the hops taking center stage, followed by an almost sweet grapefruit like taste. I am not one for grapefruit, but this I do enjoy. Another touch of pine at the end, and this beer goes down way smoother than you would expect. One thing that I was surprised that did not show up in the taste was the alcohol. This beer clocks in at 10.4% ABV, so I expected to taste that. However, it stays nicely hidden, with no noticeable alcohol burn. That is a nice touch.
This beer goes down smoothly, and I would say almost too smooth. This is the type of beer that gets me into trouble, as I finish one, and go straight for another. Next thing that I know, I am in the basement peeing on the floor, thinking that I am in the bathroom upstairs. Strange things happen with high quality beer. Anyway, this beer is a classic in my book, and I am now putting it in my group of favorites. Well done!
Sierra Nevada holds a special place in my beer loving heart, as they were my introduction to craft beers. Their pale ale was my first venture into the world of beers with real flavor, not a watery rice imitation beer. That was some time ago, but the feelings stick with you. You always remember your first, with beer it is no exception. Anyway, lots has changed with one of the original craft brewers over the years; A new brewery being built in North Carolina, new beers, and a canning line. Let’s take a look at their extra IPA, the Torpedo:
I love the idea of craft beer in a can. Zero light pollution. No skunky beer here. Plus, it makes it much easier to take a beer with you on outdoor adventures into remote areas. Sure you can take a bottle with you, but with a can it is lighter and takes up less space when bringing the trash home. What, you actually think I leave my empties out in the woods? Shame on you. Anyway, enough about the cans, let’s get to the tasting.
The beer pours perfectly out of said can, a beautiful dark orange/amber IPA with a decent off white head. Once the can is opened, the scent of pine hops clogs your airways. Very strong hops, mixed with a sweet grapefruit smell. I wish I could make this blog scented, so as you read this post you could smell the beer. Once you start drinking it, those flavors are at the front, overpowering anything else that might be in there. Just a tiny bit, if any malt taste is there, but you are hard pressed to find it under all of those hops. For the finish, it ends bitter and dry, or I would even say crisp. This is what an IPA should be.
Some might not care for this amount of hops, but seriously, if you do not like hops why buy an extra IPA? This is one of my favorites for a few reasons:
1. I get a sense of nostalgia when I drink a Sierra Nevada product, refer back to the first paragraph. 2. This has that West Coast style hop flavor, that I really enjoy.
3. You can find this beer almost anywhere.
If you like the above reasons, and just love the flavor of hops, this is a must try if you have not already. Well done Sierra Nevada!
Barleywines are big beers, and in my household they are commonplace. There is nothing like settling down after a nice dinner with friends and enjoying one of these big beers over conversation. I feel that is what they are made for. Let’s take a look at Stone’s offering, and see how it stands up to some of the other brands. Enter the Old Guardian…
After warming the beer up for a bit, just during the course of dinner, it pours like a good barleywine should; a nice ruby coloration and sticky, foamy head that dissipates on it’s own time frame. The beer has a pleasant, faintly sweet aroma, which is also there in the taste. But that is not all. The beer has a great, familiar Stone hop flavor, mixed with some malt sweetness, and candy sugar flavors. Not over the top sweet like some barleywines, and also not over the top hoppy, this beer is a delight. The beer finishes up with a nice warm alcohol feel, that reminds you that this beer is big, 11% ABV big. Drink a few of these and you will feel like you have been banging your head against a tree, maybe like this guy:
Again, barleywines are one of my favorite styles, and this beer ranks up with the best. I would put it, flavor-wise, in between Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot and Great Divide’s Old Ruffian. Definitely in the top tier of barleywines. This is a great beer that should be enjoyed slowly, or that 11% ABV will remind you that you are not a woodpecker, with their special adaptations to keep them from getting headaches. Regardless, well done Stone, always a pleasure!
There are a lot of beer companies that I have had and then forgotten about. Sometimes, you are at a bar and there is a special beer on tap, so you have a glass and it’s the most amazing beer that you have ever tasted. A lot of times, it fades to the back of the mind due to other circumstances, ex. events, conversation, too much to drink, etc. Sometimes you pick up a random bottle or two of a far off distant company, enjoy the beer, and then forget all about it. That happened to me with this company, Great Divide Brewing. Not that the beer was forgettable, just that I could not remember the company name…
My first dance with Great Divide came in the form of their Oak Aged Yeti imperial stout. An amazing beer that was big in flavor, that always stuck in the back of my mind. The problem was I could not remember who made it, I could only remember the clever name of it, due to me being a Sasquatch enthusiast. Sure I could have looked it up, but sometimes I am a bit lazy I guess. Anyway, while scanning the beer isle at my local grocer, I spied with my little eye this dandy of a brew:
Old Ruffian barleywine style ale.
Barleywines are one of my all time favorite styles of beer. My very first taste into the complex world was from Brooklyn Brewing with their Monster Ale, back in 2003. From then on, I have searched out for more and more barleywine ales to quench my thirst. Enter this beer…
At first taste, the familiar flavors of a barleywine hit you, but this beer hits you with a hint of hops. The label of the beer says a “huge hop character,” but I would not go that far. When I think of huge hops in a barleywine, I immediately think of Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot ale, which punches you in the taste buds with hop flavor. With GD’s Old Ruffian, the hops are more subdued, which makes this beer more drinkable in my opinion. I should point out though, when I say “subdued,” that is only in comparison to SN’s Bigfoot. The beer does boast 90 IBUs, which definitely puts it in the “hoppy” category.
The major difference of this barleywine compared to others that I have had though, is it is more balanced, drinkable, and smooth. All of the ingredients in this beer work well together, each one complimenting the other. I would go as far as calling it a more refined Bigfoot ale. That is in no way a knock on either beers, but at first taste, side by side, Old Ruffian will be easier and more enjoyable to drink. This is now the beer I am going to recommend to folks when they want to try out the style. Hands down, best barleywine that I have ever tasted.
Now that this beer is under my belt, I don’t believe that I will be forgetting the Great Divide name any time soon. And also, for style points, I need to pick up one of these:
Well done, now I need to go on a beer run…
Cycling jersey photo from Great Divide’s site.
Rogue Ales from Oregon, puts out quite a variety of delicious beers. Starting with their most popular, Dead Guy Ale, and on down the line to this delightful beer, Santa’s Private Reserve Ale. They have a knack for putting beers out there that are a little outside of the box. Not as much as the over-hyped Dogfish Head, but just as interesting. Let’s dive into this one:
Santa’s Private Reserve is an amazing beer. Amazing smells coming from this beer, and the taste that follows is just as well. Not much spice flavor coming from the beer, which is a nice surprise due to this being a winter ale. Spice is a tricky ingredient for beers, and in my opinion it usually does not work. This beer has a nice balance of malt, and hops, and a nice clean finish, due to the higher carbonation. It is very easy to drink. It reminds me a bit of Alaskan Winter ale or even Sierra Nevada Celebration slightly. All in all, a very good, easy to drink beer.
Rogue is one of my favorite beer companies, and this beer makes me like them even more. One that I am looking forward to is their John John Juniper, which is aged in Gin barrels and brewed with juniper berries. As one who likes Gin, that sounds fantastic.
This beer is a must drink for this time of the year, if you see it, definitely pick up one of the big bottles and enjoy by your Christmas tree. I know I did. “From Oregon with love,” is what this beer should have on the label.
10 days of riding. Tonight was probably the hardest to get on the bike, due to the temperature hanging around the mid 20s, and me being chilled all day. Very low motivation to get out and ride. But, what fun would that be?
Continuing with the night rides, I finished off the week with a ten mile ride along the Little Miami path. Beautiful, clear night for riding, with the moon almost full. Lots of light from the moon, and with the Magicshine, the path was like riding in the daylight.
I am amazed more and more at the quality of the Magicshine. For it’s relatively low entry fee, it is quite amazing. And to top it off, the battery life is not too bad either. Great deal if you happen to be looking for a bicycle light!
Relaxing into the night with a 2011 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, ride before work tomorrow morning…