An Old Winter Favorite - (9.5)

"I kept sipping waiting for something to break the balance... and then I finished my pint."

name: Old Jubilation Ale
brewery: Avery Brewing
% alc: 8.3
type: English Old Ale
vendor: Whole Foods, Seattle
price: $9.99 (6pk)

first impressions:
Toasty malt, smooth chocolate, and hops are present and all balanced together in a perfect winter ale. This is the kind of ale and leaves you relaxed by a warm flickering hearth, no matter where you might actually be. I kept sipping waiting for something to break the balance, some flavor to follow its ego and overstep its bounds; Waiting for the alcohol to remind me it was there as many winter beers unfortunately do... And then I finished the pint.  

This holiday I began sampling ales as soon as they hit the shelves so that I might glean some insight for crafting my own winter ale as a Christmas gift to my family and friends. I've recently begun home-brewing and this might explain the massive gap since my last post. Might, but not really. Just having hobby ADD I think. I may post about my experiences with brewing later, it was pretty interesting. There's nothing to bring you down off of your blog-writer high-horse like actually making the thing you're judging.

Meanwhile... Yes, tasting holiday ales, this Avery old ale was just remarkably right. There are holiday ales of fruit and spice, there are holiday ales of syrupy darkness, and there are overly hopped special IPAs. I would classify this as the malty, dark, smooth kind but with enough hop and nuttiness to make the occasion. Grab some off the shelves if there's any left or keep it in mind for next year when the winter beer amalgam hits the shelves, in, when is that, say, July?

review (/10): 9.5
recommended setting: Sitting in a snowy cabin would sure be nice. Near to a window but warm from a fire and within nose-shot of a piney tree. However as I mentioned earlier, all that puff isn't really necessary since the beer has a way of transporting you there through taste. So sip it wherever the holidays take you. Wherever you might end up, with whoever you are sharing it with and bring an extra bottle to share, for 'tis the season!

extraneous ramble (optional): 


Dogfish went to Scarborough Fair? - (8.5)

"This beer is a great example of why I decided to do this blog. It's one of those brewing experiments that actually worked."

name: Saison du Buff
brewery: Dogfish Head, w/ Victory & Stone.
% alc: 6.8
type: Saison w/ Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme
vendor: Whole Foods, Seattle
price: $2.99 (12oz)

first impressions:
No, I'm not going to Scarborough fair, because this beer includes Simon and Garfunkel's legendary shopping list. The herbs are even listed in the exact order we've all had burned into our brains, yet there is neither mention of the two songwriters nor the song. It easily could've been named Scarborough Fair, right? I found this surprising but perhaps it's a good choice. Perhaps it was a legal issue. Or a style thing. Or perhaps these brewers had got together to discuss a "collabeeration," which is actually becoming pretty common these days, and while they sat thinking, discussing, perhaps bickering, that song may have been playing in the background when they came upon an idea... 

Any which way it happened, it doesn't matter. It's amazing the subtlety and balance of this beverage. It's exciting and delicious, especially if you're into the Saison style. It has a sharp yet earthy peach-like acidity and seeing as I was presently grilling grass fed beef burgers, it occurred to me, it was a bit like a grilled peach seasoned with fresh spring herbs. So I promptly re-capped the second half of the bottle and chilled it a bit longer to go with my meal.
Again it was refreshing and bright with a touch of herbs that melded it right into my food. This beer is a great example of why I decided to do this blog. It's one of those brewing experiments that actually worked and wasn't just gimmick or spectacle that's interesting but let's face it, just leaves you wishing for your damned straight up IPA. I do this a lot, I buy anything new that is well designed or made by a brewer I know and like, I pay extra money, and most of the time I won't be buying another bottle of it. The experiment has to transcend to a functional balance of spectacle and quenchability, after all we are talking about a beverage aren't we? This one isn't cheap but if it were in a bar $3 isn't bad at all for 12oz. and it's a pretty special little brew.
Lastly, how could this be bad with Victory and Stone chipping in. These are some of my favorite brewers. Nicely done guys. Nicely done.

review (/10): 8.5
recommended setting: Put on Scarborough Fair/Canticle? If you want to. But how about just putting on your favorite S & G song on vinyl (for me it's something jauntier, probably Hazy Shade of Winter, or Only Living Boy in New York), and going outside to grill something tasty in the summer sun. That grilled peach thing sounded kind of good. Hopefully you are still within earshot of the music just as the brewers may have been when they thought this one up, and who knows what you might think of... Something about being a rock? An Island? Maybe Bridges and Troubled Water or Cecilia breaking your confidence daily? See what happens. 
extraneous ramble (optional): 


Steel Can Pilsner w/ Opener (8.0)

"It's a tasty little beverage but I would describe it as tasting like nothing, in the best way possible."

name: Pilsner Style Beer
% alc: 4.9
type: Pilsner Style
vendor: Whole Foods, Seattle
price: $8.99 (6 Pk)

first impressions:
It's times like these I realize how much of a slave I am to design. This was a beautiful package and a lot of fun to blog about. The kind of blog post that leaves me with dozens of extra photos leftover that I sadly couldn't cram onto the page. And this sixer brings me back to the days of choosing your cereal for the toy concealed inside, this has a free churchkey which most of us have used at one time or another to open a bottle of beer and completely obliterate the bottle cap in the process. Well that's cause it wasn't meant for that, it was meant for these steel cans and it works beautifully in the role it was designed for.


So I open the thing up after a 30 minute photo shoot, which is a lot of time to be shooting beer cans and boxes. I puncture it once fully for the mouth hole and another time for the smaller air hole. It's a tasty little beverage but I would describe it as tasting like nothing, in the best way possible. The beer is tough to describe other than a well balanced pilsner and doesn't leave anything lingering. It's not overly hopped, it's not bitter or wheaty, it's just light and refreshing, especially on an 80 degree day in May here in Seattle. I squeeze through the window and out onto my fire escape where I enjoy the can in the sun.

I'm going to admit at this point that the beer I reviewed could've been colder. If the packaging hadn't been so damned appealing to photograph, the beer wouldn't have been posing out in the sun for 30 minutes. But thanks to it's hefty can it does stay cool longer than an ultra thin aluminum one. They say the harder it is to achieve your goal the greater the satisfaction, the box does for this beer, and while that presumably applies opening the can, it may also apply fittingly to finding this beer at a store near you. Good luck!

review (/10): 8.0
recommended setting: I'm going to apply their slogan one more time and say that this beer should be enjoyed, despite the weight of the can, or maybe that adds the difficulty of your achievement, at the summit of a late Spring alpine hike. Given all the contraptions backpackers use to make their meals the churchkey will fit right in there. And as you stand tired, flushed and sweating in the May sun, puncture the can, take that first sip and look around you at the surrounding snow capped mountains, it's going to be a beautiful summer!
extraneous ramble (optional): This one's taste ranks at about a 6.0 but again slave to design I gotta give the whole experience the 8.0.


E.S.B. The B is for Barney (7.0)

name: Extra Special Barney
% alc: 6.5
type: Extra Special Bitter
vendor: QFC, Seattle
price: $4.99 (22oz Bottle)

first impressions:
Well, I'm back after quite a break. I've been laying off the beer blog while things were hectic, and I needed to take some time to think about balancing my free time. I pretty much thought I would just stop, but a few recent purchases got me back on the wagon, or off it, or whatever's the positive one. These beers were just unique, photogenic bottles and tasty sounding brews that jumped off the shelf at me. So here we are with the Full Sail, Initial Pub Offering: Extra Special Barney...

It's bitter, nicely bittered, no surprise there, and it's an ESB worthy of a gulp from anyone who like them. For me, ESB was my first favorite beer, after my first few favorite beers to have people buy me in high school. Meaning, once I could actually shop for myself that Redhook ESB in 2005 was mighty tasty. I think it has since changed but that's another story for another post. Back to the Barney, it's malty goodness comes from apparently using 5 different malts. I like it but it's somehow distinctly Full Sail in flavor. I tried to come up with some words to describe this but I guess it just takes one to know one. If you've bought the occasional F-sail sixer likely because of it's great price point I'm pretty confident you'll know what I mean. 

You might notice I have a new setting for the beer, I moved since the last entry and now have a nice wood floor for my rustic backdropping needs. As I was cooking dinner, waiting for water to boil I quickly decided to fill my pint and fire off some blog photos. I laid the floor lamp on it's side, poured the beer and snapped some shots. If you're thinking I burned the dinner, surprisingly I didn't, and it turned out great. So here's to a more manageable blog! I'll drink to that (as I finish the last of my ES-Barney).

review (/10): 7.0
recommended setting: The label describes that Barney was sitting on the deck at the brewery overlooking Hood River, and it was one of those perfect beer moments, he hoped his ESB could transport that moment, and that setting, to the drinker. I'd say bring the beer there and feel what Barney felt. 
extraneous ramble (optional): 


Green Tea IPA Collaboration - (7.5)

name: Japanese Green Tea IPA
% alc: 9.2
type: India Pale Ale
vendor: Whole Foods, Seattle
price: $3.99 (12oz Bottle)

first impressions:
Video about the collaboration

I appreciated this beer a lot more once I watched that video. The beauty in the concept and it's goal is what makes this beer a must try. First of all it is a beautiful beer. It is the sunniest orange like a fresh squeezed glass of orange juice sitting in the morning's low light. Secondly, it tastes like a Stone beer. They make great IPAs and this is no exception except that the extra flavors of the green tea transform it into an IPA that wasn't quite what I wanted to drink. I found that to the clean focused palette it was a bit strange but interesting. The tea addition comes in strong at the end of the taste with a licorice, faintly tea-like bitter. However when I finished writing about it and started eating my dinner with it, a home made flat bread pizza, the beer became more of a traditional tasty Stone brew. 

This was all before I had watched the video on making it and I had it scored about a 6.5. After I learned about who was involved and why, I found the international collaboration to be really exciting and amazing. The precision to craft the alc/vol to be 9.2% to put a positive spin on the disaster in Japan, the proceeds going overseas to relief, it all is pretty remarkable and worthwhile. So I stepped it up to 7.5 in terms of merit, plus I want people to try this one. 

I want to paint the picture of this beer as a thing to try, a thing to participate in. Pick up a bottle, donate your money to relief, and try out an ale that came together through the goodwill on this planet, what's left of it.

review (/10): 7.5
recommended setting: Find some Japanese style rocks (an actual garden is even better) and take off your shoes. Walk a few steps into it and shimmy your feet a little to cover them with rocks. Now become mindful of the each rock as it communicates through your nerves to your brain. You will begin to transfer your heat to them. Now take a sip of your Green Tea IPA and witness the flavors communicating and transferring. Be entertained by the interesting flavors and feel warm in your decision to donate to this cause... OR if your not into the meditation thing, after a few sips the 9.2% should have you pretty warm and fuzzy.
extraneous ramble (optional): 


Organic Pale Ale - (7.5)

name: Organic Pale Ale
% alc: 5.1
type: Pale Ale
vendor: Whole Foods, Seattle
price: $3.99 (22oz Bottle)

first impressions:
It smells delicious. It smells like flowers in an alpine forest, piney, floral hops. It tastes like it smells but is finished with a toasty malt flavor and touch of sweet. It's amazing. The way a flower looks and smells when it first blooms. Such an organic beautiful creation. 

But then it begins to wilt, it begins to fade. Just as organic things are more likely to fall away back into the earth, this ale seems to lose its initial perfection. Sadly, halfway through my glass I can't taste it all that much anymore. Aroma hops but not flavor hops? Does this opening scene waft away in to the atmosphere. At this point the beer certainly isn't decayed it just isn't what it was.

I think Laurelwood does tremendous things with their hops. They put out a nearly endless supply of seasonal IPAs each one fresher and tastier than the last and I didn't see that fail in this ale. Where it fails is in it's inability to maintain the initial balance. It's a promise vowed that means the world and doesn't quite pan out the way you expected. A dream come true after so much anticipation that you just end up feeling numb halfway through it's realisation.

review (/10): 7.5
recommended setting: Head on down to Portland for the weekend, or up or over, depending on where you are reading this from. Laurelwood has a brewpub in the Hollywood District where you can hopefully grab a pint of this while it lasts. And after you experience this fleeting bliss, grab an IPA like Hop Monkey and treat your tongue to those hops it has been missing since your first taste of Organic Pale Ale.

extraneous ramble (optional): 


A Sunny Belgian Farmhouse - (8.5)

name: Colette
% alc: 7.3
type: Farmhouse Ale
vendor: Quinns Gastropub, Seattle
price: $6.00 (12oz Bottle)

first impressions:
First of all, this is my first out of the house beverage that I'm deciding to write about. Because, well, it was a great beer, I haven't seen it in stores yet, and the environment was perfect for it. Evening sunlight was being thrown through a patterned glass making for a soft white glow. I saw this Colette from Great Divide on the menu in the bottles section with no description. The server thought it might be something dark but would have to check. I thought, well my backup plan will be this other summer session style ale but lets see what it is. I like Great Divide a great deal and she came back with a seriously exciting answer: "it's a Farmhouse Ale." "Done!"

Cut away to a quick background on this ale format...

This is one of my favorite styles of Belgian origin. It is one of those beers that just stands apart from the rest, the kid in the group who can hang with a bunch but can also be a part of several other groups. This was me in high school. But that part of my life aside, this type of ale speaks to those who think Belgian beer is generally too strong, too dark and dank, and often times too fruity or sweet. This ale is golden, with a touch of tart, and an earthy body that comes from special yeasting. This particular one had 4 strains in it. It's a little fruity but it all comes to a close with a dry, crispness. Now back to our hero...  
Colette was a great rendition of the farmhouse ale. I sipped my glass slowly, as though I didn't want it to go away. Not that I'm too cheap to order another but in the moment it seems like your only ration. Great Divide 6-pks can be pricey but most of them are worth it, so as soon as you see this on the shelf grab a single and check it out. Don't be surprised if you end up running back for the whole pack before the shelf is pillaged.

review (/10): 8.5
recommended setting: I love the idea of a Belgian farmhouse with ale being created in it or nearby. As the sun is showing its last colors I wouldn't mind being there swirling the last yeast-clouded sip and with a euphoric sigh, tipping it onto my tongue.

extraneous ramble (optional): Unfortunately I only had my phone's camera for these.