Category Archives: Al’s Top Picks

Upslope!

Having an Imperial IPA from Upslope. Don’t let the plain, non-descript labels fool you, Upslope’s beers are delicious!

Tonight I had the imperial IPA. I found it to be delicious, and I really appreciate that they spent the extra money to provide it in cans. Here’s the text of my review from beeradvocate.com (overall rating 4.19/5, which is an excellent rating for any beer, and a rating I certainly don’t give out at the drop of a hat).

look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A nice two finger head that left pretty good lacing topped an orange-tan beer that was clear and had a few rising bubbles.

Aroma and flavor are quite nice, especially aroma, tons of sticky oily hops penetrate your nose like a fiery hop candle. The flavors are bold, but a bit more subdued than the aroma, with a somewhat hoppy skewed, yet balanced big beer. The hops have both soft fruity and sharp, resinous citric qualities. There’s a bit of dank that accompanies the flavorful malt backbone of the beer, along with notable spiciness.

Body is medium and sticky with resinous hops and a bitter finish. Carbonation is on the money for what I would personally want, given the rest of the beer’s qualities.

The flavors and aromas are complex, and Upslope has once again impressed me with their beer. Keep up the good work, and I’ll keep buying your beer.

And I do like that it comes in cans. Mind you I either use commercial bottles for homebrew, or recycle. But for the general public, and the overall good of the planet, cans are very easy to recycle, are very good at keeping beer fresh, and are easier to store or transport than bottles. So for this reason, I am very hoppy that Upslope decided to invest in canning technology and infrastructure for their brewery.

Great Job! 😉

My Top Six!

Well I’m always talking about my top five beers so far, and while that’s probably somewhat debatable, I decided to at least make an effort to qualify which beers those are, at least up till this point. But looking back, it’s impossible to narrow it down to five, so six it is!  I’ve been brewing for a few years now, so I’ve got a nice little list to choose from. Here’s what I’ve decided, as of Feb 2014, in no particular order:

Fresh hop pale ale

The Averagely Perfect American IPA

Pliny the Elder pseudo-clone

Classic American Creme Ale

Citra-Bomb from Hell SMaSH

The Juniper Pale Ale Project with MrOH

And what have I learned from these brews?  Well, one thing that really stands out is that simple recipes tend to be better. Two of these beers used only one base malt (citra bomb and fresh hop), and that base malt was golden promise. Maybe that’s two things learned.  However, Bravo-Munich SMaSH would certainly be the honorable mention for this list.

Classic American Creme Ale used only two ingredients, barley malt and corn, and that barley malt was six-row. That was by far my clearest beer ever, absolutely crystal clear, even at bottling, all the way to my filled glass. So much for the plethora of “six row sucks” cries of horror you’ll hear on the web if you admit to using six-row.

Crystal malt does not equal “bad” when it comes to IPAs. Both the APA IPA and Pliny the Elder (and my pseudo-clone of PtE, which is exactly based on Vinny’s recipe malt-wise) made the list, and the choices for that list included various hoppy beers that did not contain crystal malt. So much for that de-bunked theory.

Juniper can be an excellent addition to a beer (if you make good beer in the first place, that is). I wouldn’t over-do it tho.

BMC fans can be easily converted without making ridiculously light and flavorless beers. Classic American Creme Ale was rated “my best beer yet” by one particular BMC drinker that frequently samples my beers. And while it was quite good for the type of beer I envisioned (one without hugely strong flavor or aroma, but not a flavorless or totally bland beer, more of a refreshing, light, thirst-quenching beer with a nicely light corny, hoppy flavor).  However, the Citra Bomb From Hell disappeared awfully fast considering there were only a couple BMC fans and me drinking it.

BMC drinkers, once converted to homebrew drinkers, never go back. Remember that.

So here’s to the first edition of my top six list, and to many more like it. Cheers!

1000th Beer Review

Posted my 1000th commercial beer review today.  Decided to go to Freetail Brewing and have some on-tap beer goodness and a pizza to commemorate the occasion. The beer I chose for the occasion was Freetail’s Chipotle Porter.

Flavor and Aroma notes:

Aroma is just a touch of pepper, but lots of roasty, dark malt goodness. Flavor is heavily weighted towards the peppers, it’s pretty spicy and might be a bit more than some beer drinkers would prefer. The staff will be quite forward about it tho, ask for a sample.

Body is medium and leaves a lingering pepper heat.

Overall: Very porter like in appearance and aroma. More pepper-beer like in taste.

Now as pepper beers go, this is a fine one. There’s a good strong pepper presence, with a good little touch of heat. Spicy! But very enjoyable! And the pizza was damn good too!

Yakked with the staff and one of the brewers for a while too. Picked up an Old Bat Rastard for my buddy, and for my self. Great job on making great beer Freetail!

Queen’s Limited Release Wheatwine from Texas Big Beer

I knew Texas Big Beer had another beer coming out soon, and now it’s out.  And it’s gooooood!  Very nice, a tasty wheatwine/barleywine hybrid, but it’s really more of a wheatwine.  And it’s a big, topping off at 11.39% ABV. 

It pours an orange, almost red color, kind of a deep amber.  The head and lacing weren’t that impressive, but there’s ample carbonation, giving it a creamy mouthfeel that’s almost chewy. 

Aroma is this one’s strong point, with a great fruity, floral treat for your nose.  Flavor begins with a solid malt/wheat backbone, a good balancing dose of very floral hops, and plentiful fruitiness. 

Very enjoyable, hats off to Texas Big Beer once again.  I can’t wait to try their new IPA that’s coming out!

Queen’s Wheatwine

 

One Eyed Doll

Now I know this is basically a beer blog, and I mostly talk about beer and homebrew, but on occasion I may wish to diverge or derail my own blog.  If you don’t like it, then I suggest youneedta have a beer and try relaxing for a change.  Because Kimberly Freeman totally kicks ass, and One-Eyed Doll is a band to inspire anyone (who’s not dead already)!

I play in a metal band, and thus I like to check out other bands, and of course I just plain like music in so very many forms.  I’ve been a big fan of this band for a while, but I feel the need to blog it, and post some links.

On a slightly ironic note, Kimberly doesn’t even drink, but hey, pobody’s nerfect, eh?  I love you Kimberly!  

Rockumentary:

Please support your favorite bands by buying their music and merchandise!

Oneeyeddoll.com

Bigfoot Found!

It’s true!!  Bigfoot found!!

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale 2013 is in my local grocery store, and I picked up a four pack.  Such an amazing brew!  This is the definition of barleywine if you ask me.  Although a bit hoppier than most barleywines, I haven’t found one that I like more.  Well, Dogfish Head Olde School is pretty damn awesome too, but that one is kind of a different beast: it’s got way more alcohol, for one thing, and isn’t comparable to bigfoot ale.  Although both brews are fantastic, this post is about Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot ale, so we’ll stick to that!

I’m going to post my original review from more than a year ago, along with my edits for this year’s vintage:

Bigfoot!

Downright gorgeous to look at, deep amber with copper notes, clear, with a great 3 finger head that lasted forever and laced the glass with sticky chunks.

More like an IPA in the nose, hops are dominant and the typical barleywine smells are secondary. Piney and even grapefruit hops are pungent. A little caramel malt and a little fruitiness provide something other than hops as a side note.

Taste is bold and again, very hoppy. Tastes more like a barleywine than it smells, but still, this one is quite a bit like a DIPA in the taste department. The hop profile is just dominant as hell, this fact cannot be hidden. Fruity and caramel malt flavors do balance out the taste more so than the smell though, and overall it’s quite nice!

The body is thick and tangy but the alcohol is surprisingly well hidden. The hops even leave a bit of a bite on the aftertaste.

Honestly, this is a fine barleywine, albeit a lot hoppier and a bit different than I’m used to when I buy a barleywine. I really like this stuff. I can’t wait to see how it mellows. I’ve put a bottle away for a year, and another for two years, will re-try it again next march (and the one after that) and report back.

I really like trying new beers, and I hadn’t had this one yet. Overall I’d list it as “must try” Excellent job, SN!

Edit for 2013: once again, they nailed it.  The original review is more than a year old, but now I’ve had 5 different years of vintages, both aged, and for the more recent years, fresh.  Every time it’s just fantastic!  Gold standard of barleywines.  Monstrous hops and tons of delicious malts, one of my favorite beers anytime, from any brewery.  If I decide to try and brew a barleywine, it will be based on this!

Cheers to Sierra Nevada for 2013 Bigfoot Ale!

 

Bigfoot Found!

Freetail Brewery IPAs

Was working on a deck over on that side of town, and stopped at Freetail Brewery to see what bombers they had for takeout.  There were four bombers available, and I didn’t know what any of them were all about, nor did I have the time to read about it or discuss it with the staff.  So I picked the two IPA type beers to try later that day.

Two days later, we finished the job early, so we went to Freetail for lunch and a couple of beers.  I saw that there was a third IPA in bombers for takeout, so I picked that one up too.  I guess it’s Freetail “IPA week” for me!  I’ll post the review of Soul Doubt IPA below.

The other two IPAs I picked up:

Velocihoptor (what a great name for an IPA!).

Buffalo Hump 1840 Belgian IPA

In addition, I had another round of Spirulina Wit, a delicious rye witbier with spirulina added to give it a wonderful and deliciously strange green color!  At 3.9% ABV, it’s damn easy to drink, and I could easily have several of these in a sitting.

I also tried Uglie Ollie Stout, a delicious dry Irish stout that’s full bodied, but only 4.1% ABV.  These two brews made a nice lunch (along with some delicious pizza from their food menu).

I am going to try to make it there this Saturday for the “battle of the wits” where they’ll have various varieties of their witbier for your drinking pleasure!

Cheers to Freetail!

 Soul Doubt IPA

Pours a nice amber to copper color, mostly clear, with a creamy head that left about a 1/4″ sheet of dense foam capped on top the whole way down, leaving sheets of nice sticky resinous lacing.

The aroma doesn’t blow me out of the water, by any means. It’s somewhat subdued, but I get Cara-Munich malt first, then some herbal, earthy hops.

Flavors much follow the aroma, but they stand out more, and leave me wondering why I don’t make it out to freetail more often! The Cara-Munich and aromatic malts (along with whatever crystal malts they used) make a great base, and an unusual one for an IPA. I like the innovation! It’s well hopped, but balanced very well with the moderate ABV and bold malty backbone. There’s a little citrus, but I am getting mostly heavily earthy and lightly floral or grassy hop flavors.

This IPA is very unusual, and very likeable. Just don’t expect to be getting a standard west coast 47 lbs of hops per five gallons type of IPA. This beer is well crafted and delicious, but it’s not Pliny the Younger or Heady Topper.

Cheers to Freetail brewery for this brew!

Freetail Brewery

Freetail Brewing in San Antonio Texas is a wonderful spot for beer lovers.  They have about 10-11 different beers on tap at all times, plus usually a cask of something tasty.  They serve food and have TVs and such, and the food is quite tasty, especially the pizza.  They now have 22oz bombers for take-out too!

Today I’m having a nice lunch and trying their St Patrick’s day special: Spirulina Witbier.

Well this was a St Patrick’s Day special here, I could tell immediately when I saw the color: GREEN.  Nicely green too, slightly cloudy, had a decent head and left great lacing behind.

Had a typically witbier aroma, wheaty and spicy with cloves and yeast.  Flavor followed suit in spades, if I didn’t see the color it would be hard to tell this was a specialty brew and not just a delicious witbier.
Body was light and very drinkable, I dare to say it’s the perfect St Patty’s beer (especially with the low ABV, 3.9%, so you could pound many of them and still remain standing!).

Always recommend a trip to Freetail for their great beers, this one is no exception.

Oh, and amazingly The Mars Volta was playing on the overhead music!  That’s friggin’ awesome!!

Great Divide OAK AGED Yeti!

Well I’ve already reviewed regular Yeti Imperial Stout, and now I’ve got a nice fat bomber of OAK AGED Yeti.

Rating 100/99 on ratebeer and 95 on beer advocate, this is certainly a top-dog Russian Imperial Stout.

The appearance is great, used diesel motor oil black with a massive brown, lasting head and monster lacing.

The aroma is very nice.  There’s a plentiful supply of roasted, toasted, and burnt malt flavors.  Notes of coffee, chocolate and tobacco accent the nose.  There’s a touch of woodiness from the oak too.

Taste wise this one is tremendous, and mostly follows the nose.  The roasted and burnt grain flavors are up front, followed by a nice coffee/chocolate flavor.  I still detect a little tobacco like flavor in there too, like a fine cigar.  The oak aging is more apparent in the flavor and accents the rest of this delicious beer wonderfully.

The body is tremendous!  Super thick and incredibly rich and full bodied, with pretty well hidden alcohol.

What a great beer!   I highly recommend this to anyone who loves Russian Imperial Stouts or oak aged beers.

Cheers to Great Divide!

Hop Stoopid NHC Challenge

Hop Stoopid Clone Challenge – NHC

I was just having a hop stoopid, one of my fav DIPAs.  We kinda drank most of the homebrew, and we’re waiting for more to be ready, so I’m having some commercial brews.  I’ve already reviewed hop stoopid here, but it’s always worthy of discussing it again.

I’ve always loved this beer from the very first time I tried it.  It’s very clean in its bitterness and is near perfection for a DIPA if you ask me.   It’s also a major bargain, well worth the price!  DIPA lovers, if you haven’t tried this one, TRY IT!

The above link is wonderful.  They give you tons of info on how they make hop stoopid.  Plus, they are asking you to bring your home brewed versions for them to taste and discuss!  I’d love to go to their suite at the NHC and submit my version to their head brewer!

The link also has recipes for both all grain and extract.  DAMN COOL of Lagunitas to do this!

I want to try a version of this for my first IIPA.  I need to come up with some simcoe hops first, but rest assured, this one will be brewed by me sooner or later!

Cheers to Lagunitas!

 

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