So I happened upon a fresh bottle of Pure Hoppiness yesterday at the store and my wife happened upon a fresh bottle of Pliny today so… time for a side-by-side tasting, methinks!
I did the tasting solo, although my wife offered input by tasting a thimbleful of each beer. She correctly identified them from the glass, by the way, such a babe.
Pliny the Elder is a little on the grassy, fresh cut flower side. Plenty of citrus and hop oil character with a light, crispy malt backdrop. Pliny finishes clean and brisk, with a tingling mouthfeel that smacks of orange chiffon.
Pure Hoppiness kicks things off with a little more heat, a bit boozier and more on the honey-sweet floral side than the grassy side. PH then segues rapidly into an herbal garden of hop sweetness and resinous tones. The mouthfeel is equally satisfying in the tingling sensation. Both of these beers are carbonated just right.
In the end, if I had to pick just one to drink for the rest of my life (a sad fate, indeed) I think I would stick with Pliny. However, they’re both world-class beers and I feel guilty that I am drinking them both at the same time. I know that there are starving children out there. Forgive me.
There’s no craft beer scene quite like the San Diego brewing community. According to Times of San Diego, as of August 2014 there are 90 craft breweries local to the Southern California metropolis and experts predict this number will reach the triple digits by the end of the calendar year.
Every autumn, Stone Brewing hosts a little festival devoted to the thickest, strongest, and gnarliest dark beers on the planet. They call this event, Pour It Black. On October 19, 2014, I attended for the very first time.
Thus begins my “live” blog of the intense, oily, dark, and downright delicious.
This was perhaps the most special of the brews I was able to try (2001 IRS was gone by the time I got to the bar, alas). Stone’s 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout was and remains a fan favorite. Trying a variation of it aged in bourbon barrels was just an unexpected extra.
My first time trying this one, which was released as a special 500ml bottle earlier in the year. The 2013 “Odd Year” release of Espresso Imperial Russian Stout is pitch-perfect. I cannot heap enough adulation upon the barrel aged version.
I have tried more disparate varieties of beer this year than in any other year of my life on this planet. Perhaps I will outdo myself one day as a member of the Mars One crew, but until then, this year will have to stand as the greatest annum of potations in my tender, young lifetime.
Firstly, let’s have a fun, little, statistical rundown of the beers my liver processed this past year.
In all, I tasted 207 different brews in 2013. That’s an average of a little more than 1 new beer every other day.
My most-tried style, and also the most-popular style in San Diego was India Pale Ales ~ 51 kinds
My second-most tried style was all manner of Stouts ~ 45 kinds
My third-most tried style was various types of Belgians ~ 19 kinds
Not a single beer was below 4% and 64 of them were above 10%, including one that was 15% (!) ~ the highest percent ABV beer I have ever had.
In no particular order, these were my absolute favorite beers of 2013:
Stone Imperial Russian Stout (2009 Release) – 10%
Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale (American Strong Ale) – 9.6%
The Bruery Bois (Old Ale) – 15%
Firestone Walker 17th Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale) – 13.3%
2012 Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter aged in Ballast Point 3 Sheets Rum Barrels – 10%
Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine (English Barleywine) – 12.1%
There are plenty more beers listed further down the page, I have emboldened the names of all of my other favorites.
So, here is the detailed breakdown, kind-of sorted by style and in the order I tried them, as the year progressed:
AMBERS – 7
Brick Wall Brewing Amber Ale (12 oz bottle)
Karl Strauss Amber – ABV 4.5% (12 oz bottle)
Port Brewing Carlsbad Chronic (American Amber / Red Ale) – ABV 5.8% (on tap at PizzaPort Bressi Ranch)
Modern Times Blazing World Randalized with Mosaic Hops – ABV 6.8% (on tap at Modern Times tap room grand opening – 9/7/13)
Modern Times Rorima (100% Brett Amber) – ABV 6.5% (on tap at Modern Times tap room grand opening – 9/7/13)
Ninkasi Believer Double Red (American Amber / Red Ale) – ABV 6.9% 60 IBUs (on tap at Slater’s 50/50 Liberty Station 9/26/13)
AleSmith Evil Dead Red Ale (American Amber / Red Ale) – ABV 6.66% (22 oz bottle)
AMERICAN STRONG ALES – 8
Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale (American Strong Ale) – ABV 9.6% 66.6 IBUs (12 oz bottle)
Lost Abbey Deliverance (American Strong Ale) – ABV 14+% (on tap at Sublime Ale House 8/13/13)
Great Divide 19th Anniversary Wood-Aged American Strong Ale – 10.2% (on tap at Sublime Ale House 8/28/13)
Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale (American Strong Ale aged with American oak wood chips) – 7.2% (12 oz bottle)
Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ (American Strong Ale) – 9.9% 51.1 IBUs O.G. 1.100 (12 oz bottle)
Stone Double Bastard 2013 (American Strong Ale) – 11.2% (22 oz bottle)
Firestone Walker 17th Anniversary Ale (Blended Barrel Aged Beer – Blended from 8/200+ Barrels: 30% Bravo Barrel-Aged Imperial Brown Ale
25% Stickee Monkey Barrel-Aged English Barley Wine
15% Velvet Merkin Barrel-Aged Oatmeal Stout
15% Parabola Barrel-Aged Imperial Russian Oatmeal Stout
8% Double Double Barrel Ale
4% Helldorado Barrel-Aged Blonde Barley Wine
3% Wookey Jack Black Rye India Pale Ale) – 13.3% (on tap at Sublime Ale House 12/4/13)
Weins Crowded Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale) – 10.8% (on tap at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens 12/9/13)
BARLEY WINES – 3
Rogue Old Crustacean (Barley Wine) – ABV 11.5% 110 IBUs (tapped keg at Beer-Con 2013)
Uinta Cockeyed Cooper (Barrel-Aged Barleywine) – 11.1% (on tap for Sublime Ale House’s 3rd Anniversary 10/25/13)
Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine (English Barleywine) – 12.1% (on tap at Sublime Ale House 12/18/13 & 12/26/13)
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.
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.