Monthly Archives: December 2011

An Appeal To Everyone On New Year’s Eve, From Al

Please everybody, get home safe.  Take a cab.  Have a designated driver who doesn’t drink.  Take the staff duty bus if you’re military.  Take the regular bus or the train if you’re a civilian.  Budget extra money for public transportation.  Walk.  Even stay at home.  Just make it home safe.  Don’t crash, don’t get arrested, don’t ruin the night for you or anybody else.

I love to party and drink plenty of beer.  This New Year’s Eve I plan to stay in a hotel in St Louis, MO, and take a cab to and from my places of fun.  I’m going to hit the Schlafly Taproom, the Lumiere Casino, and various places between the two.  I plan to have a blast, and also plan to make it back to the hotel in one piece.

Make sure you do the same.

Happy New Year Everybody!!

Al

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Stone – Pour Me A Double, Bastard That Is!!

It’s finally that time of year, the time when Stone Brewing comes out with their seasonal release of Double Bastard.  Such an amazing beer!!  This year’s batch weighs in at a hefty 10.5% ABV.  It’s got characteristics somewhat like that of a Quadrupel, although it’s considered a Strong Ale.  Amazing in every way, so malty, yet so hoppy at the same time, with incredible complexity and an overload of deliciousness!!  The body and feel are amazing!!

Stone is possibly America’s best overall brewery, although this is of course arguable.   But if I had to choose one brand as the only brand I could ever have for the rest of my life on a desert island … you know the scenario, it would probably be Stone.  A review of their regular offerings is a tour of the definition of great beer.

Their flagship Pale Ale is just amazing.  Smoked porter is delicious.  Levitation is the hoppiest session beer I’ve ever had, and I try to always have at least one bottle on hand at all times.

Stone’s IPAs really shine.  Their standard India Pale Ale is THE beer that made me start liking IPAs, and realizing the amazing complexity of the style.  Cali-Belgique is amazing too, an excellent example of the Belgian version of the IPA.  But Ruination blows virtually every IPA out there completely out of the water, it’s just insanely good, and available year round.

Seasonally, I am always waiting for December, when Double Bastard comes out.  I can’t stop raving about how good this incredible Strong Ale really is.  I’ve got a bottle aging now, and I intend to open it on my last day in the army.  Yeah!!

The Epic Vertical series has been interesting, at least the ones I’ve been able to try, which are the 09.09.09 and 10.10.10.  Absolutely delicious.  I could drink the 10.10.10 all the time!  I will post a reply to this post when I get the 11.11.11 (which will be very soon).  Maybe I’ll get to try some of the earlier Epic Vertical series, depending on the trade winds and whether they age well.

And the actual Brewery and Gardens… an absolute must see if you’re anywhere near San Diego.  I recommend getting a hotel nearby (there are a couple reasonably priced, plenty nice ones), then taking a cab to and from.  This made for a fantastic session with my long time friend Linda and myself!  The gardens are great, the service is great, the takeout is great, the food is great, just do it already!!

Stone.  I salute you.

One Awesome Box – Story BIF

The Story BIF was an event where everybody had to send a box of beer, plus a story, to their recipient.   The story had to include each of the beer’s names somewhere in the story as part of the criteria.  I’m rather proud of my story, especially since I won the bonus box (voted on by the forumites).  However, the real story here was the EPIC haul I got from Alewatcher!  Here’s the links:

Story, part 1

Story, part 2

The Haul

Here’s the pics and list of what Alewatcher sent me, truly Epic!!

Pic 1 from left to right
Stone sublimely self-righteous
Stone smoked porter
JP Oro de Calabaza
DFH chateau jiahu
Ducheusse
DFH fort– 07
DFH Red & White
Stone Vertical Epic 10
Stone IRS
Surly Coffee Bender
Surly CynicAle

Pic 2;
FFF tulip pint (my favorite style glass for IPAs)
Summit unchained imperial pumpkin porter
DFH olde school
RR temptation
Weheinstephaner Heffe
Sam smiths Yorkshire stingo
Weyerbacher Insanity (bomber)
Pannepot 07
DFH 120 minute IPA- I think from 07
NG Enigma
Yahoo Sue

Absolutely the best box I’ve gotten yet in a BIF.  Thanks Alewatcher!!

Southern Tier

Lately I’ve been on a bit of a Southern Tier kick.  I’ve had quite a few of their selections so far, and I’m always looking for more.

Their regularly available selections (at least for me) are pretty darn good.  Pale and Phin and Matt’s are both nice pale ale selections.  Their IPA and 2xIPA are also quite tasty.  I’ve been mixing in a sixer of each of these about once a week for the last few months, and I like them all.  I’d probably say I like the regular IPA the best out of these, but they’re all tasty.

There’s some slightly more over-the-top choices I’ve had from Southern Tier as well.  Today I’m having the Krampus Imperial Helles Lager, a pretty strong American Double Pilsner.  It’s got a lot of hops, plenty of malts, and fairly notable alcohol, but is pretty darn good, and rated pretty highly in its category.

The Iniquity Imperial Black Ale is really good!  Definitely not a session ale, this one is really strong but bursting with great flavor!

I wasn’t that fond of the Old Man Winter Ale, but it’s rated fairly well.

Creme Brulee was really tasty, very much a dessert beer.  It was heavy, very sweet, syrupy, and tasted much like its name.

Unearthly Imperial IPA is quite tasty too, over-the-top in its oily hoppiness!

And Halloween wouldn’t be the same without my annual bottle of Pumking.  Very much like drinking a pumpkin pie, this one is heavily spiced, high in alcohol, and big on deliciousness.

Later tonight or perhaps tomorrow, I’ll be trying the Choklat, an imperial stout that’s highly rated.  Can’t wait!!

Bacon Is Life Federation!

A great bunch of beer nerds got together a few weeks ago in St Louis for the first Bacon Is Life Federation (BILF)  beer tasting party.  The jist of the BILF is to savor, enjoy and promote the greatness of bacon, and to try, savor and revel in the greatness of beer!

The first party had a wonderful array of bacon snacks, including a fantastic version of Bacon Explosion that had a log of Gouda cheese in the middle!

The best part of course was the beer.  Here’s a list of what was tasted that night…

  • surly 5
  • boulevard chocolate
  • jolly pumpkin la parcela
  • pumpking
  • ivan the terrible
  • lost abbey inferno
  • surly bender
  • ghost face killah
  • arctic panzer wolf
  • new glarus belgian red
  • ofallon wee heavy
  • genesis 15:15 hebrew (i love this one!)
  • coffee bender
  • surly furious
  • yeti chocolate oak aged
  • yeti espresso oak aged
  • yeti belgian
  • maiden the shade
  • saint arnold pumpkinator
  • canadian breakfast stout
  • kentucky breakfast stout
  • breakfast stout
  • schlafly coffee
  • schlafly coffee/pumpking blend (you might want to not ask on the blends)
  • pumpking/belgo anise imperial stout blend
  • stone belgo anise imperial stout
  • growler of schlalfy rye ipa
  • fantome magic ghost
  • black xanthus
  • schlafly raspberry coffee stout
  • goose island lolita
  • hub hopworks rise up red
  • Oak Aged Yeti
  • Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti
  • Belgian Yeti
  • Bridgeport Hop Harvest
  • Cherish
  • Bell’s batch 10,000
  • Wake Up Dead
  • BCBVS

December 30th is the second installment, the Wrath of Bakhan!!  Should be a hoot!

Schlafly Taproom! Best of St Louis

Well I’m at the Taproom right now, and there’s a damn good reason for that.  I come here all the time, at least once a month, even though it’s about 130 miles from where I reside.  Today I just went stir crazy though, and had to take the trip, get a hotel room, grab a cab and start enjoying the beery goodness!

Up first was a really nice new beer I haven’t tried yet, the Southern Hemisphere IPA.  It’s the last (I think) of their 20th anniversary series.  Made with exclusively Tasmanian Galaxy hops, it’s quite tasty!  On cask everything from Schlafly is awesome, and this one is no exception.

I also had the Old Ale, an interesting combination of a Barleywine and a Scotch ale, brewed with brown sugar and molasses.  It had a very wine-like smell, but a bit more of a beer like taste, I would venture to say more like that of a Scotch ale

I also chose an old favorite of mine, and one I commonly drink out of bottles at home, the Pilsner.  This is just a great beer no matter how you slice it.  I just wish it came in cans for days of fishin’ out on the lake.

I’m getting a growler of the Southern Hemisphere IPA for Christmas day.  Sounds like a great way to enjoy the holiday!

Had a sample of blackberry mead too, kinda odd really.  Very sour-like in the smell, but not quite as funky in the taste.  Good stuff I suppose if mead is your thing.

Also had a Schwarzbier with my dinner, great stuff!  Dark, almost black, but yet light and really easy to drink, relatively low alcohol at 4.9%. Very tasty stuff!!

Well I’m headed over to play some pool now and listen to the live band.  Definitely check this place out when you’re in St Louis!

Supporting New Breweries: Piney River

I really like small breweries, especially newly started ones.  I want to try their beers and hope they’re good.  I like to buy their stuff and spread the good word.  I recently discovered Piney River Brewing at my local store.  So far I’ve gotten to try two of their beers, the McKinney Eddy Amber Ale, and the Missouri Mule IPA.  Both are quite tasty!!

McKinney Eddy Amber is quite a malt bomb of an amber ale.  it’s also quite hoppy.  It’s pretty full bodied, yet relatively easy to drink.  Definitely expect a malt bomb though, it’s quite a pungent red.

The Missouri Mule IPA is also somewhat of a malt bomb, but with tons of great hops overflowing with bold taste.  Tons of caramel malt form the base, and great floral and fruity hops bring it on home.  It’s pretty well balanced, and very bold.  The body is amazingly thick and rich too.

These are sold in 16oz cans, which I definitely like.  For one thing, you can’t take bottle fishin’ in most places.  Also, cans are superior in many ways to bottles.  Good job on canning your beers!

So anybody who reads this and can get it, try it.  Support local breweries.  Try Piney River!

The Amazing-ness of Dogfish Head!!

Let me just make a quick post here to give two mugs up to Dogfish Head Brewery!  I just love their beers!  I’m currently trading for both Worldwide Stout and 120 minute IPA.  In my opinion, these are the best beers this brewery has ever made, but it’s so hard to call it, you can feel free to disagree.

Anybody who ever trades with me, I want these beers!  I still cannot currently get them in my locale, which really sucks for me!!

I also really love Pangaea, Sah’tea, 60 and 90 minute IPA, Fort, My Antonia and Aprihop.  Plus so many others!  Go DFH!!

Thoughts on Trading

Trading is a great way for beer fanatics like me to get their hands on many fine beers that aren’t available in their area.  However, it’s also expensive, time consuming, and requires a great deal of thought before you decide to get into it.

The first step towards trading is to think about why you want to trade, and whether you are truly prepared for what it takes to be a good trader.

Right away you should strongly consider whether or not you’ve exhausted all the choices in your local area before you start trading.  For instance, if you’re going to trade for an imperial stout, you should consider whether or not there are good imperial stouts in your local area that you haven’t tried yet!  Why spend money on shipping for an imperial stout when you have eight choices in your local area that you haven’t even tried yet!  There is really no need to become a beer trader if you have not exhausted the supply of new beers to try in your local area.

If you’re certain that you really need to trade in order to satisfy your palate’s utmost desires, then the next step should be to consider whether or not you can really afford it.  Trading can get real expensive really quick,  and you’re going to be paying a considerable premium on your beer in shipping costs.  Shipping is not cheap!  It’s really easy to spend hundreds of dollars in beer and shipping when you get carried away with trading.  Consider beforehand whether or not you have enough disposable income to spend that much on beer, or whether you might be better off drinking local choices instead of paying shipping for exotic beers from afar.

If you’re sure you can afford it, and you’re sure you’re ready, the next step would most certainly be to read Alewatcher’s Blog.  This is must-read stuff.  All new posts about “how do I become a trader?” are immediately answered with this link to Alewatcher’s Blog.  I’ve linked to it twice for a reason.  Please, if you’re thinking of becoming a beer trader, take the time to read this from beginning to end.

Next up, you’re going to need beers that someone else will want!  Someone across the country in a far away state is not going to send you Pliny the Elder in exchange for some crappy, mass produced swill.  You’ll need beers that are unavailable on the west coast, yet still in demand if you’re going to try and land some Pliny.

Note that I’ve chosen Pliny the Elder (PtE) because it’s a year round beer that’s not that hard to trade for, yet is highly sought after and is well worth the effort to trade for.  In addition, PtE needs to be fresh to be at its best, which brings into play yet another consideration in the rather complex world of trading for beer.  More on that shortly.

So let’s say that you have a good selection of beers in your area.  You’re going to need a place to find a trader willing to deal with you, and for what you have to offer.  Most beer trading goes on in the trading forums on beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com.  However, it’s not so simple as to just show up and suddenly you’re drinking Pliny.  You need to make an account first, and possibly contribute something to the site in order even to post on the trading forums (beeradvocate). It would help if you made some posts and got familiar with how things go at the site before you start trying to trade.

This isn’t really a bad thing, if you ask me.  So many new people come on these sites daily that it’s really hard for an experienced trader to know who to trust.  So the rule becomes new traders ship first.  There are lots of scammers out there who will try to establish a trade with an unwary trader, have them ship, and then never ship their half of the bargain back in return.  It’s a sad fact, but the internet is full of scammers.   Therefore newbies ship first, period. You will have to ship, they will receive and verify the contents and packaging of your box, then you will get your box.

You should not be offended if you try to establish a trade and the other guy, an experienced trader, insists that you ship first.  In fact, you should just accept the fact that you have no reputation, no trade history, and no references, and nobody in their right mind is going to send you a box of beer just because you seem like a nice guy on the internet.

In my opinion, you are a newbie until you have five confirmed, verifiable trades under your belt, and you will be shipping first if it’s less than that.   So if you really want that Pliny so badly, you will probably have to ship first to get it.

How to bargain  for the pliny?  You can either post a for trade, in search of (FT:ISO) post, or you can respond by personal message to someone else who has posted.  Generally people put the relevant details into the subject line.  An example would be:

ISO: Pliny the Elder, FT:  Boulevard Smokestack

This is a good ISO:FT post title.  It says exactly what you want, and exactly what you are offering in return.  Almost.  Boulevard has a lot of Smokestack series beers.  You may get responses here, but you may not.  Here’s a better example:

ISO: Pliny the Elder, FT: Boulevard BBQ*

This is offering a specific beer and asking for a specific beer.  Now everybody knows exactly what you want and what you are offering.  Hopefully you get some hits.   Here’s another example:

FT: Boulevard BBQ, ISO: mixed locals

This shows that you have Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad for trade, and you’re looking for a mixed box of locals in return.   This post will likely get replies.  Here’s an example of a not so good post title:

ISO, PtE, RR sours, Lost Abbey, FT: see inside

Your title has already lost half its potential readers because you’ve not been specific enough on what you have to offer.  People are lazy; much of the time they won’t bother to look.

Enough about that.  The next thing that needs to be discussed is how you value the beers you trade for.  I generally only trade dollar for dollar ($4$).  That means you send me $50 worth of beer, I send you $50 worth of beer, shipping costs are on the sender and are not included in the price.  This is very standard and generally accepted.  If you are trying to trade for very rare beers like Dark Lord, Hunaphu, Kate the Great etc, you’re either going to have to offer up more than the price the holder paid at the brewery (not recommended, at least not by me), or come up with an equally rare beer to trade for (which is what most holders of rare beers will want).  There’s basically nobody that’s going to trade you Dark Lord without your being able to get something that’s equally hard to find.  Don’t bother trying, you’ll just wind up frustrated.

Start small.  Trade some great locals for somebody else’s great locals.  Get your feet wet and get some experience.  Build your reputation.  You need trade references, which should be listed in your profile (or at least on a link to a spreadsheet or document that lists your trades).  I always check the references of someone I don’t know, and plan to trade with.  Say I look at their profile and see they’ve traded with Joe Smith.  I will send a message to Joe and ask him how his trade went, how was the communication, were there extras, how was the box packed, did they ship on time, did they offer tons of excuses as to why they were late, did they meet the trade agreement etc etc.  All you really need to ask is “how did your trade with so-and-so work out?”  Most traders will happily tell you all you need to know real quick, and they’re usually very nice about it.

Now you should know that if you’re new, and you’re going to trade with me, that you should check my references too!  Just because I’ve got 37 people listed on my profile doesn’t mean I’ve actually traded with all those people!  Beware of scammers!  If I am going to trade with someone with a lot of references, but I don’t know that person, I look for references that I DO know.  If I can’t find references I know personally, I look for people that are highly active on the forums, and obviously have lots of trades, and a good reputation themselves.  A couple of replies is usually all you need to evaluate whether a proposed trader is reliable or not.  The fewer trades someone has, the more you should check their references.  Someone with five references that you don’t know is a much different thing than someone with 110 references, many of whom are well established on that particular site.

Extras – a topic that is often highly discussed but is really as simple as the golden rule.  Extras are not required, they are extra.  But everybody pretty much sends them.  It’s really nice when you make a trade for a six pack of coffee stout and get two extra IPAs in your box!  Your trade partners will also really appreciate it when you send them extras too.  There is no hard and fast numerical rule for extras, but I try to send about 20-30% of the trade value as a rather general rule.  There are exceptions though.  I have several times had a 12-pack (or whatever size) shipper that I want to use, and will tell my partner straight up that your box will contain exactly these beers, nothing more, send my box accordingly.  There is nothing wrong with this at all, as long as you’re up front about it.  But if nothing is said, send some friggin’ extras already!  You won’t regret it.  Beer karma comes back on you.

Also, get a fedex or UPS online account.  You can print your labels and just drop off the box.  This cuts down the questions big time and saves you money too.  I’ll probably write more about this at a future date.

The final thing I’m going to mention here is communication.  This is the most paramount thing about trading!  My first trade got a little messed up because of a shipping error (not my fault) and also because of my inexperience (my fault).  At any rate, it was all messed up.  Only half his shipment got there and the rest was all out of whack!  BUT – I kept in touch, almost daily in fact (because I felt bad about it), and made good on my end of the deal.  My trading partner was understanding and happy that I kept in good touch.  We have traded again since, and I will happily trade with him any day for any beer.  I even sent him a freebie a while back because he was so generous with his extras and so understanding when there was a problem on my end.  But it was the communication that was key!  Keep in touch!

You need to exchange more than just beer mail/PMs, you need to exchange phone numbers and emails too.  Without a phone number, I won’t make a deal, and neither should you.  Fedex requires a phone number for the recipient, so they can call if there’s an issue, a signature is needed, etc.  Get it.  Call or text them before the ship date to make sure it’s real.  The best traders talk to each other all the time.  You can’t communicate too much!

Good luck on trading!

*Note the abbreviation BBQ is for boulevard’s bourbon barrel quad.  You’ll need to learn the lingo if you want to get good at this.

Math Trade 5

The Math Trade 5 is a BIF event where each person offers up three “puts,” and then bids on four “wants” for each beer you’ve put up for trade.  Neorunner then does some magical, mystery mathematics and tries to match everyone up with both a target for the beer they offered, and an incoming beer that they wanted from their choices.  This is the fifth math trade event, and the second one I’ve participated in.

You are not guaranteed to connect in this trade.  Each person can put up to three puts, and bid on four beers they want per put.  If you don’t put up anything that someone else wants, you’re not going to wind up connecting. Also, if everybody in the universe wants the beers you’re bidding on, you also may not connect.  You can connect up to three times if you are lucky, if you offer beers that people really want, and if you choose wisely.

My plan on this round is to bid on beers that I don’t think are going to be SUPER sought after, thus increasing my chances of connecting.  I won’t be bidding on Kate the Great, Darkness, Dark Lord, Hunaphu, or anything super-rare.  I’ll be bidding on beers that I think are pretty fair trades for my puts.  I believe my puts are great beers, but I realize they aren’t super rare whales!

On the first round that I participated in (math trade 3), I only connected once, offering up Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad.  My other puts may not have appealed enough to connect.  Still, I was happy.

This time I am offering up 2008 Schlafly Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, 2011 Bouelvard Saison-Brett, and Fantome Saison.

The puts are in, and the next step is selection.  A spreadsheet with all the beers will be posted online.  Each person selects four beers they want per put that they offered.  When that is completed, the next step is Math!

Don’t ask me what math actually gets done, I don’t know and I’m not worried about it.  However, when that math is done, we’ll know who hooked up with what.  That’s what I’m waiting for!!

I feel confident that I will connect on this one, especially with the saison-brett.  Wish me luck!

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