Anchor: Steam Beer

From the Brewery: IMG_3233

“Anchor Steam® Beer owes its deep amber color, thick, creamy head, and rich, distinctive flavor to a historic brewing process like none other.

It is a process that combines deep respect for craft brewing tradition with many decades of evolution to arrive at a unique approach: a blend of pale and caramel malts, fermentation with lager yeast at warmer ale temperatures in shallow open-air fermenters, and gentle carbonation in our cellars through an all-natural process called kräusening.

Anchor Steam® Beer derives its unusual name from the 19th century when “steam” was a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast of America under primitive conditions and without ice. While the origin of the name remains shrouded in mystery, it likely relates to the original practice of fermenting the beer on San Francisco’s rooftops in a cool climate. In lieu of ice, the foggy night air naturally cooled the fermenting beer, creating steam off the warm open pans. Once a nickname for any Californian or West Coast beer brewed under these conditions, today the name “steam” is a trademark of Anchor Brewing and applies only to the singular process and taste of our flagship brand – San Francisco’s original Anchor Steam® Beer. The classic of American brewing tradition since 1896.” 4.9% ABV California Common/Steam Beer

Purchased from Das Bierhaus in Fresno, California.

The Pour: IMG_3234

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pilsner glass. The body is remarkably clear, with a nice amber/apple juice color. A large, slightly off-white head is poured (which was likely accentuated by an aggressive pour into the glass), which dissipates to a thin covering and leaves light lacing. Surprisingly little carbonation is visible for a lager-ish beer.

The Nose: IMG_3235

The aromas are light, smelling like a sessionable summer beer, sans the use of adjuncts used by most macro lagers. Present are bread/crackery notes from the base malts, as well as some lemon citrus and grassy tones.

The Mouth: DSC_0774

Anchor Steam has a medium-thin body, and has an easy mouthfeel that offers just light carbonation pep and faint hop bitterness. The flavors match the nose pretty spot on; slightly sweet cracker/grainy malts mixed with a bit of lemongrass citrus, which lingers lightly on the palate.

Final Thoughts: DSC_0776

While not an outstanding beer, it’s always nice to drink a lager-style beer that doesn’t use any cheap adjuncts (corn, rice syrups, etc.) to sweeten the beer or inflate the ABV. The result is a decent, malt-forward beer that is easy to drink and moderately refreshing. If this is the quintessential California beer, then my home state is doing okay. I prefer something a little more hearty, but pretty much any beer drinker can get behind this one.   7/10

Anchor Brewing Company – San Francisco, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, Lager/Pilsener | 2 Comments

Almanac: Biere de Chocolat

From the Brewery: IMG_3227 IMG_3228

“Our Biere de Chocolat celebrates the long and lauded history of chocolate production in San Francisco. Our aim was to create a beer bursting with cocoa flavors and aromas, balancing sweet and savory to create a complex but quaffable chocolate brew. To accomplish this we partnered with Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco to create this rich brew brimming with chocolate character. Working with the unique flavors of Dandelion’s single-source beans, we created this decadent beer by layering in smoked and dark-roasted malts with citrusy Ivanhoe hops from Clearlake, CA. Finally, we added a blend of hand-roasted cocoa beans sourced from Madagascar and Río Caribe, Venezuela. The Madagascar beans add bright berry-cocoa flavors, while the Río Caribe adds dark chocolate and bourbon notes. A touch of vanilla rounds out the supporting flavors to create an eminently drinkable beer that is a chocolate lover’s beer through and through.” 5.5% ABV American Porter

I got this bottle from a friend.

The Pour: IMG_3229

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into my porter/stout glass. The color is solid black, not allowing any light through the edges. A large, sudsy brown head is poured, which has decent retention and leaves good lacing. Faint carbonation can be seen climbing up the glass.

The Nose: IMG_3230

A sweet, chocolaty aroma is immediately noticeable as soon as it is poured. While it is definitely milk-chocolate forward, other aromas come through as I get my nose in it. A bit of roasted barley, vanilla, lactose, and the faintest hue of smoke round it out.

The Mouth: IMG_3231

Biere de Chocolat is medium-bodied with a very soft mouthfeel, offering little carbonation or bitterness resistance going down. The flavors begin similar to the aroma, sweet milk chocolate and light roasted notes. The vanilla aspect is more present in the mouth, combining with the barley and chocolate combination to linger on the palate. There is virtually no hop bitterness or ABV noticeable, and just a hint of earthiness that could be contributed to hop flavor.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3232

As a big fan of chocolate porters/stouts (when they’re done right, of course), I was pleasantly surprised by this offering from Almanac. The chocolate-forward profile is offset just enough by the vanilla and dark roasted notes to not become overpowering. The mouthfeel is so soft that it only took a few hearty drinks to finish the bottle. The chocolate profile and mouthfeel is similar to Young’s Double Chocolate Stoutpoured from a nitro tap, so any chocolate beer fan should give this one a shot. 8/10.

Almanac Beer Company – San Francisco, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, Stouts/Porters | 1 Comment

Lagunitas: NightTime Ale

From the Brewery: IMG_3222

“There are two kinds. There is the DayTime kind, which is bright and welcoming and then there is the NightTime kind, which should never be confused with the DayTime. NightTime is dark and deep and may take you to unexpected places, places that the DayTime cannot. But then, the NightTime is not suited for ordinary life and ordinary tasks. In fact, NightTime may be the answer for that sort of thing, meaning that those sorts of things may never get done. Things take time in the NightTime, things slow down and you can puase (you have to, actually) and investigate carefully to find that level of objective detachment that is only possible under the spell of the NightTime. Seek the Day, but fear not the Night.” 8.2% ABV American Black Ale

Given to me by a friend.

The Pour: IMG_3223

Poured from a 22 oz bomber into a nonic glass. It is black in appearance, with some light coming through around the edges. A large, sudsy head is poured, which has good retention and leaves heavy lacing on the glass. Only trace carbonation is visible.

The Nose: IMG_3224

NightTime is certainly hop forward, to the point that if I was smelling this blind I probably couldn’t have detected that it was a Black IPA/American (or Cascadian) Dark Ale instead of a regular dank IPA. Bitter grapefruit, pine resin, and onion funk all come through in the nose. The faintest bit of a malt sweetness backbone also presents itself underneath the heavy hop dank.

The Mouth: IMG_3225

Medium-bodied with a pretty harsh mouthfeel initially, though the carbonation harshness does smooth out a bit as it sits and warms. The grapefruit/citrus hop bitterness attacks the tongue as soon as it hits the mouth. Some dark roasted malt character tried to come through, but is overwhelmed by the hop profile. The aftertaste offers the same intense citrus notes, but a bit of bread/biscuit malt sneaks in before giving way to long lingering bitter hop flavors.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3226

NightTime is another decent Black IPA/Cascadian/American dark ale. The aromas are spot on for the style, but the flavor profile is a little muddled. It just doesn’t seem to flow together as well as it should. Maybe Stone’s Sublimely Self Righteous Black IPA  has spoiled the style for me, because that beer is just so damn good. That’s about the only complaint I have about NightTime, but it’s definitely worth a go for any big IPA fan. Even at 8.2% ABV, I didn’t have much trouble finishing the bomber by myself. 7.5/10

Lagunitas Brewing Company – Petaluma, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, Dark/Brown Ales, IPA | 1 Comment

Speakeasy: Payback Porter

From the Brewery: IMG_3217

“American hops provide a smooth distraction for Payback Porter’s robust strength, which is concealed within the shadows of dark imported malts.” 7.5% ABV American Porter

Purchased from BevMo in Fresno, California.

The Pour: IMG_3218

Poured from a 22 oz bomber into my porter/stout glass. The color is very stout-like; solid black with no light coming through at all. A large, frothy brown head is poured, which has good retention and leaves good lacing throughout. Little carbonation is visible.

The Nose: IMG_3219

Dark roasted malts and barley upfront, just as expected from a robust porter. Also included in the aroma are hints of bitter dark chocolate, espresso, lactose, dark fruit, and a faint mineral/metallic smell.

The Mouth: IMG_3220

Payback Porter is medium-bodied, offering moderate carbonation harshness in the mouth before finishing with a decent amount of hop bitterness. The roasted barley and dark malts are again the keynotes, but the chocolate and coffee are more pronounced than in the nose. There is also a decent amount of malt sweetness that brings in some dark fruit notes. It finishes somewhat wet initially, before being dried out by the hop bitterness. Lingering roasted barley and malts linger with some lactose on the palate.

Final Thoughts:IMG_3221

Payback has similar taste characteristics to some smaller imperial stouts I’ve tried, and I’m not entirely sure the exact difference between a robust porter and an American stout. Either way, this one is a good beer to drink. When I first started drinking beer, this was one of the first craft brews that really wowed me. It is still a fine beer, though not as earth-shattering as that first time… 7.5/10.

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers – San Francisco, CA

Posted in Beer Reviews, Stouts/Porters | 1 Comment

Tioga-Sequoia: Tecumseh Imperial IPA

From the Brewery: IMG_3212

“Tecumseh is our Triple IPA and is brewed to be the highest General in the hop army of India Pale Ales. This Imperial IPA is highly decorated with pounds of hops throughout that give it a dank, citrusy, grapefruit flavor and aroma. Join the General’s army and we’ll drop hop bombs on your palate.” 10.8% ABV Imperial IPA

Purchased from the brewery in Fresno, California.

The Pour: IMG_3213

Poured from a 22 oz bomber into a snifter glass. The color is deep amber orange, and has pretty clear visibility. A khaki-colored foamy head is poured, which dissipates to a thin covering and leaves good lacing. Moderate carbonation is visible.

After finishing the first glass and pouring the rest, it became apparent that Tecumseh is bottle conditioned. The second glass was super hazy from all of the yeast gunk that came out of the bottle. I would have been more careful with the pour if I would’ve known it was bottle conditioned.

The Nose: IMG_3214

Huge grapefruit and citrus hop aromas emanate as soon as it is poured. As I get my nose into it I get a heavy dose sweet, syrupy caramel malts. I also get a bit of bready malts as well. Tropical fruit and citrus notes round out the profile.

The Mouth: IMG_3215

Tecumseh is rich bodied and thick in the mouth, going down harsh from big alcohol presence that is prominent as soon as it enters the mouth. Grapefruit, tropical fruit, and some general dank represent the hop flavors. It finishes with a good bite of hop bitterness, with a lingering aftertaste that combines the thick, syrupy caramel malts, alcohol and hop notes.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3216

Tecumseh is a big IPA; big malts, big hops, big alcohol presence. I find it doesn’t match the level of sophistication of Tioga-Sequoia’s Double Dry Hopped General Sherman (which is probably my favorite offering from them). The pieces of this Triple IPA puzzle just don’t fit together as artfully as they seem they should. I honestly think that the best way to give this beer its proper due would be to age it barley wine style, to achieve a mellowing of the alcohol and smoothness of the overall mouthfeel. That would degrade the heavy hops included, but it already seems under its 126 labeled IBUs. Maybe I’ll find another bottle and give it a re-review in a couple of years. All that being said, I’m certainly not trying to put out a negative review of this one. I had no trouble finishing the bomber, and had fun doing so. It’s just not quite Tioga-Sequoia’s best offering. 7/10.

Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company – Fresno, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA | 1 Comment

Firestone Walker: Double Jack

From the Brewery: IMG_3207

“A dangerously drinkable Double IPA.  Double Jack opens up with bright grapefruit and tangerine American hop aromas. Beautifully crafted undertones of stone fruit are revealed upon first sip, followed by the essence of blue basil and pine. A sturdy pale and crystal malt backbone brings balance to high hop intensity. Complex and aggressively hopped, and flawlessly balanced.” 9.5% ABV Double IPA

The Pour: IMG_3208

Poured from a 22 oz bomber into a Spiegelau IPA glass. The body is slightly hazy, honey-orange in color. A yellow-hued, off white foamy head is poured, which thins to a light covering and leaves heavy lacing. A good amount of carbonation is visible.

The Nose: IMG_3210

A slight spicy, lemony-citrus hop zest is the main aroma initially. Sweet, syrupy caramel pale malts provide a very solid secondary character, which intensifies as the beer comes to room temperature.

The Mouth: IMG_3209

Double Jack has a surprisingly thin mouthfeel, and is relatively soft going down before giving way to strong hop bitterness. The initial flavor in the mouth is the syrupy caramel malts, mixed with some dark fruit esters. These lead to strong grapefruit and lemon hop flavors, which mix with some cracker/bread malt notes that offer a lingering semi-sweet bitterness on the palate.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3211

What I can only assume to be English base malts (and plenty of them) provide and interesting base for the DIPA style. Double Jack isn’t as grapefruit forward as Stone’s DIPA style, as it leans more towards the lemon end of the citrus hop spectrum. The alcohol presence is very well hidden, but by the end of the bottle I was beginning to feel it. It’s not as great as I’d expected, as I’ve heard and read nothing but rave reviews (though every palate experiences beer differently). It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe my lack of being “wowed” is a lack of real love of the style. I would still recommend it to any craft beer drinker, and rate it at 7.5/10.

Firestone Walker Brewery – Paso Robles, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA | 1 Comment

Stone: Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA

From the Brewery: IMG_3197

“We’re brewers whose substantial mettle and idiomatic approach to brewing allows us to consistently create works of art such as this justifiably self-righteous black IPA. Its bitterness hits our sweet spot. Its blackness lightens our hearts. Its liquid dichotomy pulls it all together in this sublimely sacrosanct ale. Yes, we damn well know our stuff here at Stone, and it would be irresponsible of us not to acknowledge how remarkable this heavenly creation of ours is. Thus the name we are compelled to give it — Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA — serves as a reminder of just how good we are, in both liquid and verbal form.

We’re certainly not perfect. Too often, we allow our modesty to get the best of us as we’re simply not inclined towards senseless braggadocio. When you’re good, you’re good. And when you do something great, the least you can do is acknowledge it. Others benefit from knowing. In this case, we find that we are compelled to point out how amazing this ale is that we rightly call the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.

First brewed in 2007 as the Stone 11th Anniversary Ale, this ale was an instant hit. With us. Other folks with great taste loved it too, but we were focused on how much we liked it, and we felt it was truly sublime. That euphoria didn’t last long though, as it was soon replaced with the grim reality that when we sold out of it there wouldn’t be any more. For us. And that was simply unacceptable. So, we are now blessing ourselves, and you the enlightened, with this ale. Thusly, you may now revel in your own self-righteousness as you see fit with this glorious example of ours. You are genuinely welcome, as it is our pleasure.” 8.7% ABV American Black Ale

Given to me as a housewarming gift.

The Pour: IMG_3198

Poured from a 22 oz bomber into my Spiegelau IPA glass. The beer pours nearly solid black, with just a bit of brownish-red cola around the edges. A large brown and sudsy head is poured, which leaves heavy lacing on the glass. Little carbonation can be seen.

The Nose: IMG_3199

Dank, resinous, piney hops totally dominate the aromas. Mild roasted character is also presented, but the hops are so strong they don’t let much else come through.

The Mouth: IMG_3200

Sublimely Self-Righteous has a medium-thick body, with moderate carbonation that doesn’t distract from a surprisingly smooth mouthfeel before the hops kick in. The flavors follow the aromas similarly; tons of sticky, dark, thick, piney hop dank that is just delightful. A faint touch of roasted barley/coffee, dark chocolate, and smokiness tries to come through, but the hops are just so damn strong. Heavy bitterness as it finishes leads to lingering piney and grapefruit hop flavors.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3201

The color of this IPA matches the profile; a dark, dank, sticky, resinous hoppy dream. I’ve had other Black IPA’s before, but nothing quite like this. Others seems to be more like overly hopped porters, whereas this is an IPA first and foremost. And it is presented in a darkly complex and unapologetic way. Deliciously dank! 9/10!

Stone Brewing Co. – Escondido, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA | 2 Comments

Sierra Nevada: Stout

From the Brewery: IMG_3202

“Before Sierra Nevada was a reality, our founders brewed beer at home and dreamed of building a brewery one day. Back then, they brewed the beers they wanted to drink—bold and full of flavor. Stouts had always been a favorite, so when we needed a big and rich beer to test out the brewing system at our fledgling brewery, stout was the obvious choice. Thirty years later, not much has changed. We’re still brewing the beers we want to drink and our classic Stout is the same as it’s ever been—big, rich, bold, black as night and filled with the wild-eyed passion of which dreams are made.” 5.8% ABV American Stout

Purchased from BevMo in Clovis, California.

The Pour: IMG_3203

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into my stout glass. The appearance is that of a typical stout; nearly solid black body with a brown foamy head that retains decently. Good lacing is left on the glass, and a small amount of carbonation can be seen.

The Nose: IMG_3204

Roasted barley and nearly burnt coffee are the main aromas. These mix with toasted malts, faint dark chocolate, and a bit of a sour/lactose twang at the back end.

The Mouth: IMG_3205

Sierra Nevada’s Stout is medium-bodied; soft and smooth in the mouth, going down with little carbonation harshness. There is much more going on in the flavors than the nose suggests. The dark chocolate, coffee, and barley notes are more intense and blend quite well, and a good dose of hop bitterness on the back end mixes well with the semi-sweet malt base. Lingering bitter dark chocolate notes coat the mouth.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3206

This beer pretty much epitomizes what a West Coast stout should be. It is smooth and flavorful, with a decent amount of hop bitterness on the back end. Though I prefer bigger stouts leaning towards the imperial end of the spectrum, it’s refreshing to see (and drink) a no-frills stout that does everything right. 8.5/10

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Chico, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, Stouts/Porters | 2 Comments

Stone: Cali-Belgique IPA

From the Brewery: IMG_3193

“This beer is indeed a complex and surprising combination of flavors, but behind the fancy title is simply delicious Stone IPA dressed up in new Belgian duds. The addition of a carefully selected strain of Belgian yeast adds unexpected layers of flavors and aroma, providing a deliciously funky overtone to the hoppy brightness you already know and love as Stone IPA. Think of it as an otherwise identical twin to Stone IPA that was raised in a Belgian culture. Literally.” 6.9% Belgian IPA

Purchased from BevMo in Clovis, California.

The Pour: IMG_3194

Poured from a 22 oz bomber into my Belgian Ale glass. The body of the beer is slightly hazy and honey-golden in color. A modest mostly-white sudsy head is poured, which dissipates to a wispy covering and leaves good lacing. Medium carbonation is visible.

The Nose: IMG_3195

Herbal and lemon citrus hops upfront, but with heavy underlying typical Belgian ale characteristics – clove spice, coriander, banana and other fruit notes, as well plenty of yeasty phenols.

The Mouth: IMG_3196

Cali-Belgique is medium-bodied, though it doesn’t quite carry the same level of effervescence expected from a typical Belgian Dubbel. Just like in the nose, the flavors begin with the hops; modest citrus notes but with a bit of pine dank sneaking in as well. Then the beer goes in to full Belgian mode (see aromas-hardly any deviation from there). It finishes moderately dry, with lingering citrus and woody esters on the palate.

Final Thoughts: 

Well, this is an interesting combination of styles. It seems a Dubbel-style ale with West Coast hops, though it’s actually a West Coast IPA fermented with Belgian yeast strains. The Belgian yeast seems to overtake some of the intense hop profile Stone uses in their IPA, or maybe they just don’t add as much for this particular brew. Either way, this one is probably just a taster for me, not one I’d pick up regularly. There isn’t anything particularly flawed with it, but it’s not my favorite. 7/10.

Stone Brewing Co. – Escondido, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA | 3 Comments

Dogfish Head: 75 Minute IPA

From the Brewery: IMG_3188

“Blend two Dogfish Head favorites, add maple syrup and carbonate the mixture naturally. What do you get? 75 Minute IPA. The carbon dioxide trapped during bottle conditioning gives 75 Minute IPA a soft and velvety mouthfeel. Dry-hopped with whole-leaf Cascades, this complex IPA has been known to inspire pilgrimages to our brewpub. Now we’re sharing this animated blend of 60 Minute and 90 Minute with the rest of our fans, 750 milliliters at a time.” 7.5% ABV American IPA

Purchased from BevMo in Clovis, California

The Pour: IMG_3189

Poured from a 25.4 oz bottle into my Spiegelau IPA glass. The body is honey-orange in color, with mostly clear visibility. An large orange hued off-white head is poured, which has great retention and leaves heavy lacing throughout. A huge amounts of carbonation is visible climbing up through the beer.

The Nose: IMG_3190

While it does offer the expected burst of aromatic hops I’ve come to expect from Dogfish Head’s IPA series, a pronounced sweetness really takes center stage in the nose. Sweet, caramel malt character comes through and mixes with the faint hint of maple sweetness from the bottling conditioning techniques used in 75 Minute IPA. The hop scents include orange zest, grapefruit notes, and some pine dank.

The Mouth: IMG_3191

75 Minute has a medium thickness in the body, with a harsh mouthfeel from tons of carbonation – it’s almost as if too much maple syrup was put in to carbonate it naturally, though it’s not quite at bottle bomb levels. The flavors are sweet, both from the citrus and caramel malts. Hop bitterness isn’t all that prominent, much less than expected from the aromas. After finishing, malt sweetness (maybe a bit overly sweet for the style) lingers on the palate.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3192

75 Minute IPA is a pretty neat beer overall.  The character seems more in line with a Double IPA (more sweetness than bitterness), though at 7.5% ABV it’s not quite there. The natural carbonation/bottle conditioning using maple syrup is intriguing, as the only maple beers I’ve had to date have been stouts. I’m not too sure that the maple adds anything particularly noteworthy, but it’s fun. An interesting beer, but not spectacular, and probably not worth 10 bucks a bottle.  7.5/10

Dogfish Head Brewery – Milton, Delaware

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA | 1 Comment