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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?


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!

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.

Black Magic & Demolition

As we enter our second week of an excuse to drink, Max and I have come to the realization that we’re going to run out of beer rather fast.  So many thanks to all of our friends, especially Essie Snell, for sending their recommendations.  We appreciate you only choosing the expensive bottles that need to be shipped from the other side of the country.

However, until we have gotten ourselves together (read: until Max has ordered some damn beer), we shall continue to raid the local BevMo with mixed results.

This week’s picks made Max unhappy, but let’s be honest, no one cares when the men are unhappy.  He chose the Demolition Belgian Style Golden Ale.  You know he chose it because it was called “Demolition” (supposedly referring to the destruction of the strip mall surrounding Goose Island’s brewery – why a brewery would be named something that ridiculous is a totally separate question).  As it turned out, the name was not indicative of the beer’s power, in either ABV or taste.  At 7.2%, it’s unlikely to have the upside of getting you wasted quickly.  And while the citrus aroma was pleasant, the overall flavor was pretty weak.  We decided it was summer BBQ fare – you know, after you’ve had a few bottles of the good beer at the party, and your tastebuds have decided to take the rest of the night off.

To no one’s surprise, my choice fared slightly better.  Black Magic is the creation of Left Coast Brewing, conveniently located just down the coast in San Clemente (this is the brewing arm of Oggi’s, for those in the know).

The label informed us that it was an “American style stout”, which I’m pretty sure just means “not as good as Guinness”.  It also tagged the beer as dry, which neither of us agreed with.  Max and I both agreed with the prescribed flavor notes: toasted barley, chocolate, and coffee.  Oddly, it smelled strongly of chocolate – it tasted much more like coffee.  Go figure.  It gets a little sweeter as you drink it (by the end, Max was of the opinion that it was “like drinking a Hershey bar”), with a hint of almond to round out the flavors.  Definitely not as dense as other stouts, which is my preference, but for those who don’t like to chew their beer, this is a decent choice.  We thought it would be really good with a serious pastrami on rye…also sushi, but we couldn’t figure out why that sounded good.  In retrospect, maybe just the deli food.  I also want to note that I took points off for having a spelling error on their label.  REALLY?

We look forward to trying all of your suggestions – continue to send them along!  Clearly, we’re making this top priority…

Overall Grades:

Demolition Belgian Style Golden Ale: 5.6

Black Magic Stout: 7.8



PS – I realize the formatting is crappy. I’m still playing with it so the pictures correspond with the post. Also, Emily, we should definitely include pictures of the beer in a glass, just for presentation, next time. You have the camera, so it’s up to you.