One of my hobbies over the years has been tasting new craft beers. This was a sometime indulgence of mine, where I would make a trip up to The Anderson’s (arguably the best place to discover and acquire fine beers and wines in Ohio) and see what there was to see. A visit to other local watering holes might yield a few brews from Stone, Sierra Nevada, or Bell’s. The state of Ohio’s premier craft brewery was, and still is, the Great Lakes Brewing Company, based out of Cleveland. They have a number of memorable brews, bearing names like Dortmunder Gold, Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, and Holy Moses White Ale.
When I became a married fellow, I moved down to Texas, itself a haven for home brewers and some upstart craft breweries (The Foam Rangers and Jester King, for example). However, my fortunes were cut short by the cold, hard fact that the area of the Lone Star State into which I had relocated was peppered with ‘dry’ counties. This meant that there were no places to legally purchase alcoholic beverages to take home. There were plenty of restaurants with bars, but none of them served anything remotely unique. Budweiser, anyone? Best of all, many grocery stores carried non-alcoholic ‘brews’. Any Bavarian purist acquainted with the Reinheitsgebot would scoff at any such beverage’s existence.
What really kicked my hobby into high gear was our subsequent move out west, beyond El Paso, beyond the Rockies, beyond the Mojave, to southern California. San Diego, to be more precise. Imagine my surprise upon arriving and inadvertently discovering that the one and only Stone Brewery was situated just a few miles across town from where I now live, in Escondido, CA. I visited and went on a free guided tour of the brewery, followed by a flight of free tasters. Our tour was conducted by none other than Ken Wright, the self-described Minister of Evangelism and Indoctrination at Stone. He described, in no uncertain terms, the many reasons why San Diego is among the most vibrant and exciting craft-brewing hotspots in the entire world.
And lo, I was baptized into the richly abundant culture of home brewers, nano-breweries, micros and macros and local pubs with flowing taps, dispensing some of the tastiest, hoppiest, and most-decidedly different beers. Leave it up to Californians to be as contrarian as possible when it comes to the status quo (we’ll leave out the miserably-failed state budget plan).
And so begins, in a way, my beer diary. I will update biweekly to describe the most recent brews I have had the pleasure of tasting. Below is a minor accounting of some delicious libations I tried over the course of May and June, 2012.
- Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster IPA – 9.1% ABV – Tremendous hop character. Floral and fruity and brisk in the extreme. Truly monstrous.
- Great Divide Colette Farmhouse Ale – 7.3% ABV – Highly accessible and quite mild, with flavor of harvest grains and fruit.
- Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Imperial Stout – ?% ABV – Dark and foreboding. Heavy on the roasted grains, along with a decent helping of cacao bitterness.
- Lagunitas IPA – 6.2% ABV – Hops dominate and season this IPA, with a decidedly fruity burst of flavors throughout.
- Great Divide Hoss Rye Lager – 6.2% ABV – You like rye? I like rye. Great Divide likes rye. They do a rye lager straight up the way you would imagine, only better. Satisfying.
- Great Divide Claymore Scotch Ale – 7.7% ABV – In the tradition of the ‘wee heavy’ style, a solid entry. Carmel-y goodness.
- Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Quadrupel) – 11.3% ABV – More about the Trappist Monastery Rochefort. – Indescribably delicious. Abundant with heady aromas and redolent of a garden brimming with fresh herbs and fruits. Vanilla? Cardamom? Impossible to distinguish amongst the tapestry of flavors. A truly unique masterpiece of the craft.
- Karl Strauss Wreck Alley Imperial Stout – 9.5% ABV – Coffee coffee coffee. Stout stout stout. Cacao nibs!? Amazing. Perhaps the best example of an Imperial Coffee Stout I have ever tasted. Rivals Hess Brewing’s Fors Hiberniae Stout.
- Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale – 5.8% ABV – A really fantastic ale. Worth having around in abundant quantity to share with all your guests.
- Russian River Damnation Golden Ale – 7% ABV – Re-fermented right inside the bottle. Sharp and hoppy, like many west coast beers.
- Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans – 5.9% ABV – ERRMAHGERD, Stone Brewery! How you be so smrt?!? The best idea ever. A+++
- Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers – 5.9% ABV – Ditto.