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Great Lakes Brewing Co., Part 2

Max and I were grouchy on Monday.  For those of you who know us, this doesn’t sound important, because we’re usually grouchy.  But we both just had God awful days, and were therefore far more abrasive than usual.  So it was a good night for good beer.

We finished off the six pack Max’s delightful cousin had sent out from Ohio, and I, for one, would really appreciate it if he would send more (directly to me, please).  We were slightly more impressed with Part 1, but we wanted to give you a complete look at the Great Lakes Brewing Company, for any of you who were thinking you’d fly to the Midwest for your next night out.  So here you go!

Their IPA, Commodore Perry (different Commodore Perry) was decent.  Max is more of an IPA fan than myself, but we both agreed that this bottle was a bit unusual.  For one thing, it was orange, and more frothy like champagne than foamy like a beer should be.  However, it was also slightly less intense than your standard IPA, and less bitter.  So for those who want a decent intro IPA, this may be a good start (with a healthy 7.5% ABV).  I said it would be good with tacos.  Max said it would be good with another beer (again, he was REALLY grouchy).

Conway’s Irish Ale (whoever Conway was) got our lowest recommendation.  Didn’t taste like much, though I suppose if you favor alcohol content over taste, this might be OK (admittedly at 6.5% ABV, it isn’t the best choice).  It almost tasted like milk, with a little maple syrup in it.  I suggested it had an aftertaste of tangelos, but the grouchy one glared at me for that.  He also informed me that this bottle would go well with a better beer…so we went on to the one we had truly been looking forward to.

Both being big porter fans, we were most excited for the Edmund Fitzgerald (not a clue, so don’t ask).  It smelled divine…a lot like when your dad used to soak mesquite chips in the backyard.  However, when we sipped, we found it tasted like a flat Coca-Cola.  This actually wasn’t awful.  The beer was pretty good!  But the flavor notes in the background were very similar to what Coke would taste like if you took out all the sugar and most of the carbonation.  Maybe with a little oatmeal flavor towards the middle (I began suggesting other grains, but Max glared at me, so I stopped).  We decided it would go really well with brownies…that may have been because we were eating brownies.

Thus satiated, we both were able to depart in a better mood.  We were pretty fair in our ratings despite our case of the Mondays.

Commodore Perry:  6.5
Conway’s Irish Ale:  4.5
Edmund Fitzgerald: 7.8

A little bit of everything.  :)

And we promise to be friendlier next time…right, Max?

Cleveland Rocks

So, tonight we got to experiment with a *real* local brewery that wasn’t local to us – Great Lakes Brewing Company, thanks to my cousin, Matt, who so graciously sent a case of GLBC’s fine brews [and I still owe him a case of Fat Tire. I haven't forgotten, I promise!]. Great Lakes Brewing Co beers are brewed with care in Cleveland, Ohio

First, I popped the cap off of the Dortmunder,GLBC’s award-winning golden lager with a modest 5.8% ABV. As much as I hate to use the term, it rates quite high on my “drinkability” scale. There is something about the ratio of taste to body weight [of the beer] that makes it very smooth and easy to put several of these away. The flavor notes of a melon or peachy influence are light, and the body might be classified as medium-light. It goes down quite smoothly. The Dortmunder would go well paired with any sort of deli sandwich and could be enjoyed any time of year, warm or cold, inside or out.

Next up, the amber lager Eliot Ness, whose 6.2% still flies under the radar. Eliot Ness seemed to lack any real distinct, defining tastes and aromas that set it apart from any other American amber lagers. However, it was still quite pleasant; very similar to something like a standard Sam Adams brew, but with a slightly higher IBU, so you get a bit more of a kick to it. It poured smoothly, and went down similarly. We highly recommend a few of these when you catch a game at the bar with the guys and split some nachos. If Eliot Ness were available in SoCal, it would definitely be my go-to brew at the bar or restaurants.

Lastly, the aptly-named Burning River. This pale ale surprised us in its bitterness, but not in a bad way. Most pales rate low on the bitter scale, or perhaps at the end entirely. Burning River has a bit more to it than your traditional pale ale. It has some mild tastes of toasted rice [gen mai] , and some thyme-y overtones, and was all-in-all quite enjoyable. Burning River would go well with fried chicken, or perhaps a club sandwich of sorts. [Here's some related light reading if you're not familiar with the Cuyahoga River]

We rated all three Great Lakes brews highly -

Dortmunder – 9

Eliot Ness – 8.2

Burning River – 7.7

That’s about it for tonight. Gotta go grab a Double Double to silence my stomach. Until next time – CHEERS!

St. Patrick’s Day Special: Irish Style Red Ales

Some people like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by heading to the local pub.  But Irvine is really short on pubs, and I prefer to avoid obnoxious drunk people whenever possible (I, of course, am never obnoxious when drunk – ask anyone).  So Max and I said, hey, let’s get some Irish beer to drink for Much A’brew!

We failed, kids.  Our BevMo had nothing but Guinness as far as the eye could see.  Now we both love Guinness, but let’s be honest, everyone has had it.  And I mean everyone.  I think 5 year olds drink it at birthday parties these days.  We were therefore forced to think slightly outside of the box (read: cruise the aisles at BevMo for 15 minutes), and finally decided on two “Irish style” red ales.  Close enough.

The first was a Rubicon Irish Style Red Ale, which we both decided was superior.  The beer was very cloudy (as theoretically captured by Max’s fancy new camera), and it smelled like a field of hops, but didn’t taste that way at all.  The taste was definitely floral, with grassy notes and an orange aftertaste.  Rubicon’s Irish Style Red Ale was medium bodied, 7% ABV, and I must say very tasty.  Max says it goes well with fish and chips, but we all know how culinarily unadventurous he is…I think it would go with just about anything.

Our second choice was Moylan’s Danny Irish Style Red Ale (apparently, calling it Danny’s makes it extra Irish).  Oddly enough, it tasted nothing like the first, which just goes to show you that you can’t always trust the label.  This ale was very sweet, and slightly metallic – it reminded me of pineapple juice.  A strong scent of malted barley went with the caramelized taste and hints of vanilla, all of which caused Max to deem it “too fruity”.  I didn’t mind it, but I think you’d have to pair this bottle with something spicy – maybe Mexican or Creole food.  Definitely nothing Irish.  The ABV was 6.5%, and it was a fairly light beer, which may have also contributed to our rather lower rating.  Still not terrible, though.

Finally, we had one English beer to taste – it was leftover from the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes I was making.  Samuel Smith Old Brewery makes a “Celebrated Oatmeal Stout” that we enjoyed very much – we really haven’t met a stout we don’t enjoy.  It was light for a stout, but they were not kidding about the oatmeal – you can taste it!  Apparently theirs is the original oatmeal stout, and the imitators just don’t match up.  It was amazing how much much that grainy taste came through.  We both approved, though Max did comment that it looked either like molasses or motor oil.  Either way, very tasty with a hearty roast beef sandwich, or in this case, in chocolate cake batter.

Overall Ratings

The Celebrated Oatmeal Stout: 8

Irish Style Red Ale: 6

Danny Irish Style Red Ale: 6.5

Hope everyone else had a fun night and made it home safe – slainte!

Who do? Voo Doo.

Well, welcome back friends. We’ve taken a few weeks off of writing, but we certainly have been maintaining a good buzz over the last three weeks.

Not too much to write home about, but we did make a trip down to Escondido, CA to visit heaven on Earth…I mean…Stone Brewery. We ate some food, drank some beer, learned some things about beer, then drank more beer. I think there was a third round of beer drinking, but hell, I don’t remember. Oh, and I got a proper camera to document our adventure in alcohol, so you should be seeing some marginally better pictures until I get things all figured out. And lastly, we got some proper glasses, so you can all stop harassing me about the crap we were using before.

 

Anyway, on to what some of you really care about, BEER! This week, I picked up some drinks on my way to Emily’s to attempt to get back on track with our writing. I have pictures, but no notes, so I’m entirely to blame if this turns out to be a piece of crap.

I picked up The Left Coast’s Voo Doo American Stout. The Left Coast hails from just south of me, in San Clemente, and you can find TLC brews at Oggi’s restaurants in Orange County. The skeleton-badged brew weighs in at a modest 6.8% ABV, and leaves a thin, but prominent head, which I’m starting to realize is mostly how I pour the beer, rather than the characteristics of it – oh well.

Voo Doo has a mild nutty aroma, which seems about par for the course. However, the bit of surprise is in the beer itself. While it is, by definition, a stout, it really doesn’t feel like one. It has a very light and airy body, not thick and viscous like many other stouts. The taste reminds me of Cheerio’s, for some reason that I can’t really put my finger on. Emily claims there some burnt orange in there, too, but I was unable to pick up on that one, mostly because I’ve never had a cooked orange, much less a burnt one.

Being a bit out of practice, we kinda left out the whole what does this go well with part, but Emily mentioned meatloaf, so we’ll go with that. An American stout for an American meal.

I couldn’t decide on a rating for Voo Doo. It’s good, but not fantastic. Definitely above average. 6.7?

Well, unless there’s some natural disaster*, we should be keeping this on track for the next several weeks.

Cheers!

*At the time of writing this, I was totally unaware of the 7.9 earthquake in Japan. Hope all of your friends and family are okay, if you have anyone over there.

Sours, Ales, and Ambers

Max and I are forward thinking people.  We’re smart, liberal, and tech savvy (well, that’s mostly Max).  And we are proud to proclaim, as next generation Americans, that we stand against Valentine’s Day and all the expensive ceremony that accompanies it.  Therefore, instead of spending $100 on dinner (for one), we spent $15 on beer.  And it turned out to be our most successful beer week to date!

As Max is working diligently to introduce himself to previously unknown styles of beer, I considered it my responsibility to provide him with his first sour ale.  Now, I won’t say that I spent a lot of time choosing the sour – I got the one that was on sale.  But as it turned out, Hermitage Brewing Company’s One Door Flemish Style Sour Ale was a good starter for anyone who hasn’t tried a sour (I’m looking at you, everyone not in my immediate family). The texture was light and airy, and while the traditional tart bite was present, it was balanced by a certain sweetness, probably from the dominant cherry  notes.  I felt that there was a certain woodsy flavor, almost a cedar background to the beer.  Max felt it was like drinking a tangy soda with a 7% ABV.  We also decided that it would pair well with any and all Italian food, which would have the zest and spice to balance out the sourness.  Possibly this was because we were eating pizza.

Our next choice was Tied House Brewing’s Cascade Amber – both beers are native to Northern California.  Now the Cascade Amber started out entertaining, as the bottle read like a romance novel.  Who knew an ale could have long crimson hair?  I expected it to be a little spicy – instead, we found it to be extremely creamy.  It lacked  depth – the only real taste was of vanilla – and was almost the alcoholic (5.2% ABV) equivalent of cream soda.  As odd as it may seem, we categorized this beer as a brunch beer.  I know there aren’t a lot of you drinking your pints before noon, but the best thing with this beer would be waffles.  Maybe a side of bacon.  So next time you really don’t want to face the morning, but you have a few Eggos in the freezer – consider Cascade Amber.  Currently on sale at BevMo, and you can read the full romance novel (or at least the short story equivalent) online.

Finally, we got to the piece de resistance…ROGUE.   Max and I are both big fans of Rogue Ales, which I had the opportunity to visit during my last trip to Portland.  You should all go, their beers are delicious.  This particular bottle, First Growth Creek Ale, is one of their GYO brews (Grow Your Own – part of their booze revolution).  They grow the hops, barley, and malts themselves, controlling the beer’s quality from start to finish.  And I think it’s pretty hard to argue with the result.  First Growth Creek Ale was actually similar to the One Door sour – both had cherry flavors and a tangy bite.  However, the mouthfeel of the Rogue was (I think) much richer and more filling, with a burst of sour goodness mid-sip.  There was also a nice taste of carmelized grain and a hint of peat moss, making the taste much more complex.  Even the pour was different – rich and cloudy, and with a musty scent of wood in the rain.  It would be perfect for a picnic, and at 6% ABV, you could still hike home.

Our Ratings – and yes, we will standardize these at some point.

One Door: 8

Cascade Amber: 6

First Growth Creek Ale: 7.3/8.4 (Emily preferred the Rogue!)

We apologize that we didn’t get through the draft beer – we made poor choices, and we apologize.  However, we have been granted a second chance with our field trip to Stone Brewing Company in Escondido this weekend.  Who could ask for anything more?

Until we write those bad boys up, spend your time with those you love – drinking.  :)

Old Guardian and Rampage

Well, you’ll all be glad to hear that the author who: a) drinks more exciting beer and b) writes for a living, is back.  And there was much rejoicing!

Our choices this week were decidedly more successful than usual – we liked both of our chosen brews.  This is in part because the one I chose was one of my all-time favorites, Stone’s Old Guardian Barley Wine.  Now Max and I will be traveling to Stone Brewery in Escondido in about two weeks, so we’ll have more news on the brewery later – for now, we’ll just stick to the barley wine.

Max felt it was worth trying because it has an ABV of 11.1%…I have sampled this brew before, and like it for the taste.  With a scent reminiscent of cider and a distinct reddish hue, Old Guardian offers a complex continuum of flavors.  It opens tangy-sweet with an almost berry flavor that blends into a sweet, buttery (or if you’re Max, caramel-y) tone and dies down quickly.  We also located a note of what Max termed “a spice that’s not cinnamon” – after careful testing, we determined it was cardamom.  Overall, I enjoyed it and felt it was a solid drink for any time one was craving a beer – Max grew tired of it, and felt the flavors became boring quickly.  If you should choose to try Old Guardian, I recommend pairing it with German food or another mild European food that allows the many complex tastes to assert themselves.

Max’s choice was an IPA (I know, we’re all shocked).  This brew was, in fact, an Imperial IPA – Rampage, out of Black Diamond Brewing in Concord, CA.  Contrary to expectations, this bottle wasn’t hoppy at all.  It had a sour flavor, calling to mind a strong chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.  Beyond the sort of green apple notes, there really wasn’t much to distinguish it.  It was easy to drink and very enjoyable, and despite the 9% ABV, it was easy to finish.  It was average for a beer – for an Imperial IPA, it was not a stand-out.  And that’s why we don’t let the men choose, ladies – Max’s process was as follows: “I hadn’t heard of it, and it had an elephant on the bottle.”

Overall grades:

Old Guardian: 6.8 (Max), 8.7 (Emily)

Rampage: 7

We’re going out next week, so we’ll have some draught picks for you!  Until then, keep drinking – and invite us over.

 

PS – trying to enjoy a drink with a big fluffy dog around is often difficult.

Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA

It’s not often that I’m blown away by something rather predictable. An exception to this rule is the Hop Henge Experimental IPA from Deschutes. I’ve had a few experiences with the Portland, Oregon brewery in the past, and I have yet to be disappointed by anything with their name on it. Aside from it being out of the Deschutes brewery, I was sold on the label – a recreation of Stonehenge out of, you guessed it, hop bales. After reading the label, I’m still unclear as to what makes Hop Henge “experimental”.

Moving on to the more important part of the beer, the cap-topped IPA comes in at a robust 9% ABV. Hop Henge has a pleasant, but predictable, hoppy aroma of what you would expect from an IPA which surprised me little. I do admire it for its color, though. It pours smoothly into a natural amber color, leaving a thin head that recedes quickly.

This IPA goes through a bit of a transformation between when it crosses your lips to when it moves down your throat. It has an expected strong, hoppy kick on the tip of your tongue, morphs into a smooth, sweet middle, and finishes with a bit of crispy burnt toast. Hop Henge, like most IPAs, has a very strong presence, and would be paired well with a more mild-flavored meal. Emily suggested that it would go well with a variety of comfort foods, including, but not limited to, macaroni & cheese or chicken & dumplings.

Maybe it’s my predisposition to loving Deschutes, or maybe it’s the dependable nature of a good IPA, but I couldn’t get enough of Hop Henge. I would have gladly had several more glasses of it, had we not had other brews to sample.

I give Hop Henge a well-above-average 8.2

More to come in the next few days. Cheers!
Max

 

ps- in other news, eventually we’ll get some better beer glasses. These will have to do for now. Sorry.

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