Saturday, November 27, 2010

Beer Review: Mendocino Imperial IPA

Just a quick one; This was a great beer.

It's a double IPA, but brewed by Mendocino who tend to be a bit more even-handed or maybe even reserved in their beers. I like that about them. Even so, this was a very hoppy beer. When you pop the cap on a bottle, and immediatly get a strong whiff of something from the bottle while it's still on the counter, you know you're in for a treat. Or maybe just a dickload of hops. Either way.

This, mercifully, was the former.

I can tell you firstly that this did not seem like the 8% beer that it apparently is. It disappeared from the glass much faster than it should have. Frequently* efficient drinking is the way to go. In this particular case, I hadn't really planned on having a drink. A full Thanksgiving just previous to this proved to be very tiring, so the effect was enhanced. I was suddenly reminded of the joyous enthusiasm that one experiences when swiftly drinking a pint out of enjoyment. Yea, back to the enjoyment. Mendocino Imperial IPA tastes like a lot of double IPA's and even some IPA's on the market, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Half way through the beer I couldn't help but compare it to Sierra Nevada's Torpedo IPA or 21st Amendment's Brew Free or Die IPA: IPA's which definitely have more alcohol than an average IPA, but not so much bitterness and alcohol that it's a screaming, palate-ruining example either. A Goldilocks IPA, if you will.

As mentioned, the initial aroma is of grapefruity, orangey hops. Malty, alcohol aromas are readily apparent as well. The alcohol is more of the smooth, warming type rather than the harsh or dominating type. Malt flavors are definitely there as well, but balanced by the alcohol and hop bitterness. I think the alcohol component is really a factor in the flavor of this style that is overlooked. It should help cut the malt backbone while providing some accent to the hops. The way malt alcohol and hops play in this one create a very very balanced beer that's easier to drink than it probably should be. Christ, I want another one after all that.

Cheers to Mendocino

The view from the couch. Well done, fellas

*which is to say, "always"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Get Off of My Cloud

This past weekend I was all set to be a part of Artenbru. I brewed a delicious beer to serve to complete strangers, as did 9 other local homebrewers, out of the kindness of our hearts. Mine was a brown ale. Things were set to be a nice and mellow collaboration between homebrewers and the local artists we were paired with. It was basically a one-of-a-kind event in which we brewed a specific batch for the night, and our artist-partners imagined a design, poster, or piece of art to represent the beer. Art and brews, what could be better?  

Well in all its bureuacratic glory, the city of St Paul decided to shut down the free-beer portion of Artenbru. Clearly I was planning to poison loads of unsuspecting event-goers, or even worse, not pay tax on the 2 ounce samples of beer that were available. It was an extremely disappointing call by the city, but honestly, not a surprising one. The alcohol laws here are downright embarrassing. I like to think of St Paul as being a reasonable place that appreciates its culture of food, art, and beer, but apparently those things are incidental, not intentional.

The night of the event I decided to make my way down to hang out with and support my artist-collaborator on the project (you should check out his website; it's really great stuff) as we had both put our own time and money into it, he even more than I. After an irritating bus ride to the Black Dog cafe, I was surprised to be met by a line extending out the door. Despite the city's bogus politics and terrible timing, almost all the brewers and artists showed up to talk about what they had made and what had happened to the event and, all in all, it ended up being a great time. Seeing the enthusiasm and support of the crowd was made up for much of the disappointment and I think most everyone still had a good time.

At the end of the night, we bundled up and headed home. The city tried to shut us down, the wind was biting and cold, and Lowertown St Paul was characteristically deserted, but it was a good night after all. I headed home and drank a pint of brown ale in solitude.

After all, I had an entire keg that hadn't been touched.
One pint down, which means 39 more of these bad boys

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Time

History is the terroir of beer. Time and place crafted the beers and the beer styles (if you can bear the thought of such a thing) that we enjoy today. As beer bloggers, we read and write about the differences between beer and wine. Wine is apparently more popular, has been marketed to indolent slobs with disposable income better, has more allure etc. and those may all be true, but wine's most appealing trait (its connection to a place: the terroir) is also its great drawback.

Beer is egalitarian because it comes from the mists of time, like a memory, to us wherever we are, whether it be Dublin, London, or California. Beer styles evolve, yes, possibly into something unrecognizable to their origins, but ultimately, great beers are rooted in their history because of the time in which those beers arose. Brewers of different times and places figured out solutions to their brewing problems which gave birth to their beers and beer styles. Irish brewers found that their hard water was suited for dark, slightly acidic beers, while German brewers learned to use pale malts with nuanced, delicate flavors to compliment their restrained cave-fermented lager yeasts. We Americans, meanwhile, clearly must have discovered hops. These basic foundations still hold up today and provide the basis for all beers and beer styles.

There are no vinyard-estates required in the world of beer. Beer is almost more transient, but its freedom from a specific place makes it more a part of us: it goes anywhere and it can be made anywhere. We have it with food, or on its own after a long day. It's something we can write endlessly about and something we can drink without a worry. We carry it with us, like all our collective history, like the nights we spend with the drink, like the taste-memory the most primal parts of our brains recall. We travel through time and back in time with beer, and the good and bad times we have with it are remembered fondly, not because beer exists in a transient place, but because it comes from a time in human history that will never fade so long as there are people. And beer has a place in our time now. That is why time and beer are inextricably linked. 


And what a timely blog. Why, Mr Zak Avery is having a friendly contest in which time and beer are to be written about! What a lucky coincidence! Was this post about "time" or about "history"? I don't know. I sure hope it counts as the former. Either way, why don't you check out his blog. He's a British beer blogger that has a lot more to say and more reason to say it that I do.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Send it Back

I had a delightful evening at The Muddy Pig last night. It even snowed late last night after we got home much to my delight. It's the first snow of the season, and it always makes for a great excuse to stay in, eat some baked goods, and enjoy some beer. I had Bell's Double Cream Stout on cask, Commodore Perry IPA, and Sierra Nevada Celebration. More hoppy beers than I might normally go for, but the Celebration is always hard to pass up. This year's Celebration is not quite as good as years past, to my recollection. I may have to give it another taste before passing judgement, though.

Anyways, back to the point: I sent back my first beer last night. I hate sending things back, especially at a bar I love because I realize that it's money down the drain, and more importantly, they're just going to toss an entire pint which is a real shame to see. I've also worked enough jobs dealing with the public that I'm extremely reluctant to be "that guy". Even so, I just couldn't drink it. Mrs. Flagon thought it was horrendous, too. The offending beer was a Two Brothers Long Haul (which was described as a bitter). I think they might have gotten a bad keg. It tasted like maple syrup and diacetyl and little else. A poorly executed beer will usually have some level of flavor. Infected beer tends to have a very strong and one-dimensional flavor which is what makes me lean toward the latter. The bartender didn't mind getting me a replacement, of course (they're always very accommodating*) but it still was an unusual occurrence for me. I haven't found much on the internet as far as other poor experiences with the beer, but I would be interested to hear from anyone who might have tried this beer. 

*I even watched this same bartender whip up margaritas in a pint glass for two women who seemed not to realize what type of place they were in. Margaritas in a beer-bar... I thought trying to order Blue Moon was gauche.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beer Score!

Everyone should know that the Ale Jail is hands down the best beer store in St Paul, and probably my favorite of the liquor stores* in the twin cities. I recently picked up this little grab bag.

Among others I picked up Tallgrass Mild Ale, Uerige Sticke Alt, Sam Smith's Stingo, Great Divide DPA, and Batemann's XXXB, most of which are almost impossible to get anywhere in this country.

I also recently came into some free-ish beer from a friend. I traded him a digital TV converter I had no use for, and he gave me some beer. Beer traded for what would have been garbage. Not too bad.

These are all beers that I probably wouldn't buy for myself, being of the super-hoppy variety, but it will be nice to give them a try. Bell's Oracle, and their 25th Anniversary Ale are both pretty limited releases, so I think I clearly cleaned up in our little trade. I think some reviews will be forthcoming.

If you're wondering why my couch in the background looks so crappy, it's because it's a crappy couch that I got for free off the side of the street. I'm just a working schlub, after all. I'm no Ron Pattinson for god's sake; I need to save money for beer.

*The Ale Jail doesn't actually sell liquor, but you know what I mean

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don't Call me a Beer Nerd

Please. Or a beer geek. I'm a snob, not a geek, thank you. Geekery implies a blind devotion to beer and craft beer that I don't have. There are probably more craft beers and breweries that I prefer NOT to drink than to drink. Frankly, I like quality. I don't care about gimmicks and which beer is more eXtreme, or which is made with the most food ingredients instead of beer ingredients. It's boring to me. Can't stand it. Frankly, I'm surprised it works on anyone. The beer with the most alcohol? Really? The best thing you can say about your beer is that it has a lot of alcohol? That's like saying your beer is really really cold. I guess it's something.

Realistically, this blog is some sort of evidence that I am kind of a geek, and probably kind of a nerd, but I don't want to be associated with the dweebs who flock to beer festivals and brewery tours, just for the sake of it

That's not me. I'm just a simple hater.