Grimm Telekinesis

Grimm Artisanal Ales Telekinesis Dry-Hopped Sour Ale: Brooklyn, NY

Pour is a quick cab ride to Murk City, super pale and hazy with a bright-whitGrimm_Telekinesise, soapy head. Interesting mix of lemon and pine and yeast on the nose, plus some woodsy herbs like sage and mint. In the mouth, Tele is bright and drinkable, with lemons, hops, spices and a finish of sea salt wrapped in a soft, lactic tartness. It makes you think “tart,” like lemonade, more than “sour” (like vinegar or lemon juice), and it’s quenching and subtle instead of being all up in your face.

Add this to the ever-growing list of awesome dry-hopped sours, although Grimm’s version stands out for its light-handed sourness and a hint of salinity that makes it come across almost like a gose (although there is no salt used), or maybe a Berliner weisse with a pronounced hop character. (The brewery does use a no-boil process, common in Berliner weisses, for this beer.) This beer isn’t crazy complex, but it’s tasty and interesting and, overall, a super sexy sour for the summer. As it warms, a bit of a sweaty character emerges, but I’m not complaining — it just contributes to that summery feel.

Wicked Weed Amorous

Wicked_Weed_Amorous_2Wicked Weed Amorous: Asheville, NC

Love comes in many forms. For me, two of the most profound are slow-fermenting, well-aged sour beers and fresh, catch-em-before-they’re-gone hop aromatics. Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing agrees wholeheartedly, which is why they took a barrel-aged sour (after “8 to 10 months” of sweet bug action) and gave it an intense dry-hop addition before packaging to create Amorous, a wonder for my heart and my palate.

I’ve had quite a few hoppy sour beers at this point in the Great Drinking Experiment that is my life, and while many of my fellow scientists continue to profess that “hops and sours just don’t work well together,” I honestly don’t know what Kool-Aid they’re drinking. Because I’m drinking the hoppy sour Kool-Aid, and it’s awesome.

It’s true that you probably don’t want a bunch of hop bitterness in your sour — the dryness and tartness of wild beers will magnify those IBUs to a harsh and unkind level. But as far as hop aromatics, those ephemeral waves of fruity or resiny or herbal goodness that brewers work very hard to impart (and deliver intact to you) in beer, those work just fine in sour beers, thank you very much.

In fact, this year’s Le Terroir by New Belgium, tasted fresh at the brewery, was one of the most dynamic and wonderful sour beers I’ve ever had, bursting at the seams with big, juicy, fruity hop aromatics that grabbed hold of the tropical Brett and bright lactic sourness of the golden base beer and Chinese-massaged the whole damn thing into what I believe is technically called a “flavor orgasm.” So there’s that.

Now, I’m enjoying Amorous three months after the bottling date, which is a little late to expect all the dry-hop aromatics to still be at their peak, but not so late that you wouldn’t still push over a grandmother to get the last bottle. The hops don’t dominate the aroma, although a goodly dose of new-school hop aromatics pokes through. There’s a little bit of onion, grass and pine, but it’s mostly fruit — think papaya, Meyer lemon, green grapes. It’s a little reminiscent of a funky, carbonated white wine (even though it was aged in red wine barrels).Wicked_Weed_Amorous

The appearance is pretty rad, with the clarity that you get from a long and wild fermentation and the haze that comes with dry-hopping combining in beautiful balance. Amorous is golden, sparkling and clean, but has a mysterious, hazy edge. The flavor is more sour than the aroma leads you to expect (I would actually call the tartness a very pleasant surprise), but it’s clean and not puckering. This beer goes down like some sort of alien lemonade … it’s tart and smooth and dry and a little weird, but in a comforting, blurry sort of way that says, “we might have probed you, but we replaced the memory with a confusing sex dream.” I’ll drink to that.

Ballast Point Indra Kunindra India-Style Export Stout

Ballast Point Indra Kunindra India-Style Export Stout: San Diego, CA

Ballast Point has very quickly become one of the select few breweries in the US of A that, in my eyes, can do no wrong.* One of those where I know every beer will live up to the brewery’s reputation for quality and flavor; and where, even if every beer in the portfolio isn’t a mind-blower, it’s clean, it’s flavorful, it’s fresh and it’s well-made.

Still. Still, I was skeptical about Indra Kunindra, because you just have to be. You just can’t really expect a stout this ridiculous to be balanced and drinkable and tasty while hitting on all those advertised flavor notes. … Can you? I mean, they call it an “India-style” export stout, which is a good joke, even though I’m 99 percent sure no Indian brewery (or any brewery, I’d wager) has bottled a beer brewed with Madras curry, cumin, cayenne pepper, coconut and kaffir lime. Yes, and.

Ballast_Point_Indra_Kunindra

But damn it if my mind’s not blown, my expectations aren’t vanquished, and Ballast Point’s pedestal hasn’t received a new cement footing. In short, this stout is bangin’. An intense, spicy, savory nose greets you at the outset, bowing low and imploring you to make yourself comfortable at any open table. The curry and cumin are major players in the nose, along with a bit of lime zest and, somehow, a sweet, roasted malt aroma. That might be the most impressive thing here — that this abominable-sounding creation is still very beer-like all the way through, in the crazy nose as well as on the palate.

Of course, the spice doesn’t hide from your palate, either. The first sip is a wash of savory spices, lip-smacking sugars and nearly endless flavors, starting with an earthy, toasty, coconut-and-lime sweetness mingling with that of smooth, dark, roasted malt. The finish, though, is a fistful of spice, and it’s when you discover the cayenne pepper isn’t in there just for show — it comes on strong as the sweetness fades, and lingers, tingling, in the back of your throat until the next sip … even if that next sip is a few minutes later. It’s not too hot, though, just assertive in a cleansing, eye-opening sort of way.

The slick sweetness from the coconut milk, dark malts and kaffir lime leaf (which can taste extremely soapy in the wrong beer made by the wrong hands) is perfectly foiled by the crazy-but-serious spice blend. On paper, Indra Kunindra is as extreme and attention-grabbing as any beer I’ve ever seen, but the end product is balanced, artful and deliciously drinkable.

If you had any doubts, Ballast Point is more than exceptional IPAs (though they’re that, too, and if you aren’t a huge fan of Sculpin, what do you like?). I was already a believer, but now I’m feeling a bit more like a fanatic. Anyway, got to go — I’m looking for a t-shirt on their website right now, and have to decide which fish I want to wear. Peace.

More info at BallastPoint.com

*My list is short but includes Firestone Walker, Deschutes and Avery — I’ve never had a bad beer in package from any of those guys. Same with BP.

Almanac Golden Gate Gose

Almanac Golden Gate Gose: San Jose, CA

Almanac_Golden_Gate_Gose

After drain-pouring an expensive, much-anticipated bomber tonight due to crazy-high levels of acetaldehyde (a “green” beer off-flavor; like sickly green apples), I was hoping for redemption from this other, much-anticipated bomber, and I got it in spades. Brewing peeps have been releasing a lot of goses — an ancient sour, salted wheat beer — lately, but none of them have impressed me that much; or made me think that the brewer really got it; really figured out how to interpret this old, somewhat-insane beer style into a new, beautiful, special beer. Almanac got it/gets it, and Golden Gate Gose is super impressive.

The beer is brewed with San Fran Bay sea salt in addition to coriander and lemon verbena — all local ingredients, in true Almanac style. And this gose crushes! It’s a beautiful, burnished, slightly hazy straw-gold color with a nice, bright-white head, dissipating quickly due to the salt and acidity. However, those froth assassins don’t mar the beer’s flavor in the least — it’s not puckeringly sour, just nicely tart, enough to be super refreshing without sacrificing drinkability. The salt is barely perceptible as saltiness, but makes itself known in a lightly slick mouthfeel, balanced by a light body, ample bubbles and the aforementioned welcome acidity — as well as the coup de grace, an invigorating, aromatic whiff of cool sea air. The nose is rounded out by lemon peel and herbs and a hint of spice, like peppercorns.

This is a special, timeless beer, but it’s also approachable, drinkable and affordable. And how can you deny that label art! Bravo! Finally, a gose worth writing about.

From the Cellar: 2011 Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine

Lagunitas_Olde_GnarlyWine_2011Lagunitas Brewing Olde GnarlyWine (2011 vintage) (~3.5 years old): Petaluma, CA

Freshness info: Bottled on January 27, 2011. (Julian code 027.) Thus, just a hair past 3.5 years old.

Bought: February 25, 2011

Drank: August 5, 2014

Tasting notes: Murky amber-red, a little bit of head that runs away and hides quickly. Clearly a ton of oxidation going on after almost three-and-a-half years, but the aroma is also full of oak, toffee, burnt sugar, caramel apples, booze, nail polish remover, rotting vegetables … and a lot of oxidation, running the gamut from sherry to cardboard, unfortunately not very pleasant overall. The flavor is an interesting mix of tart apples, oaky sherry, caramel apples, wood pulp and medicine, still sweet while having developed an off-putting tartness. The carbonation is also quite diminished, which, with the alcohol content, residual sweetness and general deterioration, contributes quite a bit to an overall sensation of cough medicine. Lil Weezy might be into this beer right now, but I love Olde GnarlyWine fresh, and I wish I hadn’t aged this bottle for so long.

Recommendation: I let it go too long. The sweetness and the booze have been tempered with time, which is cool, but the substantial oxidation, tartness and overall deterioration of this bottle are not sitting well with me tonight. If you have a 2011, I guess you could give it another year or so to hopefully let it mature past this phase (but don’t hold your breath). If you have a 2012 or a 2013 GnarlyWine, drink posthaste! I think this is a fine beer for cellaring, but my best guess would be two years max before the unpleasant characteristics of age start to outweigh the pleasant ones. You can’t win them all!

More info: Olde GnarlyWine on BeerAdvocate

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America Variety Pack

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America Variety Pack (Chico, CA and Mills River, NC)

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company had one of the best ideas ever for their currently available, one-time-only 12-pack — that is, get together with 12 of America’s favorite craft breweries, formulate a new beer recipe with each of them, brew and package the beer, and release it to the salivating masses in an all-new variety pack that is a beer geek’s wet dream.

Seriously, if you at all consider yourself a fan of craft beer, go out and buy this stroke of genius tonight. It’s a showcase of and testament to American craft beer culture and talent, it’s unbelievably affordable for what it is, and like I said, ONE TIME ONLY. I don’t really have anything negative to say about the 12-pack as a whole, except that I wouldn’t have minded a little more deviance from the theme of “hoppy x type of beer,” but each beer was certainly its own creation, and all of them were extremely well-crafted and drinkable. For tasting notes on each of the 12 beers (in the order I drank them, over maybe two weeks), read on, beer soldiers!

Beer_Camp_Across_America

Myron’s Walk (Allagash — Hoppy Belgian pale ale): Aggressive piney hop notes and bitterness meet  big, tropical-fruit esters and herbal spice. Veddy, veddy nice and pretty interesting, but given all the hop-heavy beers in this showcase, I wish it was slanted a bit more toward the yeast (that is, the Belgian) side of things. Still, it was an amazing match for crab ravioli in a pesto-cream sauce, as the hops cut through the richness of the crab and cream and tied onto the herbal notes in the pesto, zucchini and onions. The fruity sweetness of the crab was intensified by the fruity yeast character. Niiiice.

Tater Ridge (Asheville Brewers Alliance — Scottish Ale brewed with sweet potatoes): Fun to look at, nice, deep reddish-brown with an ample, meringue-like head. The aroma is mostly  just copper pennies, with a hint of brown sugar, toast and yams. The body is medium with enough residual sugar to make it interesting; chocolate pudding, toffee and black cherries come to mind, but a savory, vegetal element balances everything out. Pretty drinkable; it would be great with roasted, herb-rubbed chicken and potatoes.

Torpedo Pilsner (Firestone Walker — Hoppy pilsner):Yes. Basically what you’d expect, which is awesome when Firestone’s own hoppy pilsner (Pivo Pils) has set your expectations super high. A wonderfully aromatic, clean, fruity (like apples) pils with a whiff of sulfur and chalk. This may sound crazy, but I like it better than Pivo, which has become one of my go-tos. In fact, this is quite possibly the most refreshing pilsner I’ve ever had. I’d like to personally thank the brewers for this one, which I’m calling my favorite beer of the past six months.

Chico King Pale Ale (3 Floyds — American pale ale): A really nice but interesting pale ale that could easily stand as any new brewery’s flagship. Crazy, resiny, fruity hop aroma with a surprisingly smooth, malty flavor and subdued bitterness. Nothing to piss about! Great pairing for my dinner of red curry udon noodles.

Double Latte (Ninkasi — Coffee milk stout): C’mon! This beer was pretty much nailed, with a big, smoky, sweetened-espresso aroma and flavor intermingling with heaps of chocolaty, roasty malt. The ABV (7.6%) is not too massive but high enough to make this beer a big, rich and strangely crushable treat. I was planning on it anyway, but this beer just cemented that I will be purchasing at least one more of these variety packs. I mean, stupid not to, right?

Yonder Bock (Cigar City — Tropical maibock): Beautiful, unexpected translucent-red hue. Beautiful, expected, tropical-fruit hop aroma, as promised. The malt character is unique and substantial, but  not overly heavy. Perhaps comes off a tad sweet for my tastes, but a tasty, fun, well-crafted beer to be sure.

Electric Ray (Ballast Point — India pale lager): This beer is awesome, despite a couple quibbles. First, I think they’re missing an “imperial” or “double” designation — I can dig reading the ABV for yourself, but I’m pretty sure 8.5% warrants some sort of qualifier. Especially if you’re going to go on the label and say it has the “clean, classic malt body of a blonde lager” — a “classic” blonde lager at 8.5% could only be a maibock or something, as far as I can tell, In many ways, it ends up tasting like an IPA, albeit an excellent one with terrific balance. (Balance, by the way, is something this variety pack has in spades — no amateur ingredient showmanship here. All pro.) In fact, forget those quibbles — the more I drink this beer, the more I like it, whatever it’s called. One of the highlights.

Yvan the Great (Russian River — Hoppy Belgian-style blonde): Classic Belgian yeast character, full of fruit and spice, peaches, apricots and white pepper. Nice bit of complexity in this one, although it’s not easy to tell where the citrusy hops are and the lemony esters aren’t. A solid effort, dry and drinkable and a bit different.

CANfusion Rye Bock (Oskar Blues — Dry-hopped rye bock): Big, sweet, aromatic. Somewhat hoppy. Not a stunner for me, but nice, with good hop character and good malt character, like the rest of the beers in the pack. However, not a standout in this company — it’s a little too sweet for me; despite the fresh, dry-hop aroma, the bitterness could be amped a bit to balance the beer and boost drinkability.

Malliard’s Odyssey (Bell’s — Imperial dark ale): I saved this one for as long as I could because I really wanted to savor it. 8.5%, roasty, dark, deep, delicious. A real showcase of the wonderful, beautiful, big range of roasted malt flavors. Enough said. Awesome.

Alt Route (Victory — Altbier): There’s certainly nothing wrong with this translucent-brown take on a rarely-seen style of beer, but in the context of this variety pack, it’s a bit ho-hum. Still, it’s fun to try an altbier from two American brewers who have both proven they can nail traditional German styles while simultaneously pushing the envelope of American craft beer. It’s malty and more bitter than the aroma leads you to expect; a nice tipple that gets better as it warms. Appears to be a pretty spot-on version of a traditional Dusseldorf alt, just higher in alcohol at 6.6%, like a sticke.

There and Back (New Glarus — English-style bitter): I love bitters more than most US craft beer geeks, because I know what they can taste like when they’re done right — that is, like this, lightly fruity and biscuity and sulfury;  an almost ephemeral hoppiness; refreshing but nourishing. I love this beer. It’s super clean and seemingly simple, but a delight to drink. This definitely won’t be the beer to tarnish New Glarus’ spotless reputation.

From the Cellar: Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron (April 2012)

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron (~2 years old): Milton, DEDogfish_Head_Palo_Santo_2014

Freshness info: Bottled on April 11, 2012. (Making it 26 months old when popped.)

Bought: September 6, 2012

Drank: June 9, 2014

Tasting notes: This 12-percent-ABV puppy has picked up a decent amount of oxidation in the past two years, but it is not overly much, at least not once the beer warms up a bit. Once it does, brown sugar, cacao nibs, vanilla, and oak show their faces, while the beer finishes sweet, like chocolate milk, with a lingering boozy-bitter edge. Actually still pretty boozy, with an oaky, tongue-coating heat. Great beer for dessert pairing — a Scotcheroo did the trick tonight.

Recommendation: I’d hold off another six months to a year to let the booze simmer down a bit without giving the oxidation time to take over. Otherwise, a pretty rad tipple currently.

More info: Palo Santo Marron “Cellar Calibration” post from October 2012

Toppling Goliath PseudoSue Pale Ale

Toppling Goliath PseudoSue Pale Ale: Decorah, IA

I was born in Ohio, lived for periods in South Carolina, Arizona and Spain, and now call Colorado home, but for most of my life I’ve thought of myself as an Iowan. Being from Iowa is a point of pride and joy for most of us that hail from this quite-underrated state, although our pride usually requires an explanation: as in, no, actualToppling_Goliath_PseudoSuely, it’s quite beautiful and outdoorsy, and populated by kind, intelligent, hard-working people that know how to make small talk, open doors for ladies and throw back a beer or two. Perhaps in line with its small-town, farming reputation, the fine people of Iowa also appreciate hand-crafted, artisanal products, like the world-renowned Maytag blue cheese, from a dairy farm outside of Newton, IA, or the unbeatable Pella windows, from the Dutch-founded town of the same name in Marion County, IA.

However, local, handcrafted beer has been somewhat slow to take a foothold in much of the state, at least in part due to old habits dying hard — when you grow up crushing 30-racks of Busch Light on your buddy’s land, four-wheeling around the biggest bonfire you’ve ever seen, you might be apt to continue down the same road of taste-deficient, fizzy, yellow beer that you’ve been traveling since high school. For this reason, I follow with great interest the opening of new breweries in Iowa, and none has generated a bigger buzz than Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, in Decorah, in the far northeast corner of the state.

One of the beers that has helped make a name for the smallish brewery is PseudoSue, a single-hop American pale ale that exudes two qualities that Iowans hold dear in their beers: drinkability and affordability. I think it costs right around 5 bucks for a bomber of the stuff, and while hoppier than a rabbit’s ass, it keeps the bitterness in check for a juicy, crushable, mouth-watering experience. With 100-percent Citra hops, the aroma pops with pineapple, lime, yellow grapefruit and papaya, along with a spicy, herbal character reminiscent of green onions and spruce tips. It’s not a big, boastful beer, but rather a subtle and beautiful one, well-crafted, clear, properly carbonated, and, very, very importantly, CLEAN — no hint  of off-flavors or that milky homebrew character here.

Drinking this in my backyard that would be twice as big if I still lived in Iowa, I can’t help but be proud of my home state and excited for the future of beer there — as in my beer future there, when I drive home for the Fourth of July and bring back damn near a case of this stuff. Well done, boys!

More info: http://www.tgbrews.com/site/beer/psue/

From the Cellar: Trader Joe’s (Unibroue) 2010 Vintage Ale

(Unibroue) Trader Joe’s 2010 Vintage Ale: Chambly, Quebec, Canada (~3 years, 9 months old)

Freshness info: “Best before” date of September 10, 2013. (Leading me to believe it was bottled on September 10, 2010.)

Bought: December 24, 2010.

Drank: June 8, 2014. (Taking Trader_Joes_2010_Vintage_Aleadvantage of a rainy, cold June evening to pop this holiday ale.)

Tasting notes: The cork, a faithful and loyal servant to the bitter end, really wanted to stay in the bottle, and required pliers and a corkscrew to remove. No problems on the bottle side, though. Carbonation is still excellent, and the huge, tan head is still impressive after all these years, if short-lived. Port and raisin notes are the first to jump out at me, followed by rubbed sage and hints of oak, iced coffee, black pepper, candied ginger, lemon drops, and a bit of musty oxidation. Flavors of figs, toasted brown bread, and vanilla round out the flavor. Has really held up quite well, despite leaving the “best before” date in the dust 9 months ago, Finishes somewhat sweet, but the alcohol and residual sugar are tempered by a lingering bite of toasty bitterness and snappy carbonation. Pretty impressive for a 5-dollar beer.

Recommendation: It’s lost some of its softness from a couple of years ago, but it’s a fine drink now. It will hold up quite alright until this year’s Thanksgiving, where its herbal, spicy, savory character will mesh perfectly with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and even — well, especially — pumpkin pie.

More info: Canada’s well-respected Unibroue brews a unique vintage ale for Trader Joe’s once every year. Here are the details, from Trader Joe’s, for this 2010 release.

From the Cellar: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2012

Bigfoot_2012_dessert

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (2012 vintage)(~2.5 years old): Chico, CA

Freshness info: Bottled on December 30, 2011 (Julian date 1364). (That makes it 29 months old, if you’re not inclined to do the math.)

Bought: March 3, 2012

Drank: May 13, 2014

Tasting notes: Quite a bit murkier than I remember. A lot of oxidation in the nose; sherry and fruit aromas and a bit of paper. Aroma is also packing caramel, whiskey, honey, burnt brown sugar and a bit of oak and tobacco, and still quite a bit of booze. Flavor is boozy, and still bitter, and makes for a killer accompaniment for dessert, like the grilled cinnamon buns with vanilla bean ice cream I drank it with. Not my favorite moment of this beer, but still fun. A lot of oxidation. Hop aroma is pretty much Gandhi, minus a bit of herbal and grassy spice, but the bitterness is still surprisingly potent.

 Recommendation: This is a tough one, but it’s not at its peak right now. So you can either drink your Bigfoots prior to the 2.5-year mark, or, if you have a 2012, I would sit on it for another year or two to let it soften and complexify.

More info: BV&B Bigfoot review from 2011

You'd be wise to also visit craftbeersolutions.com