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<strong>The Disgruntled Chemist</strong>


Beer Blogging - Steelhead White Dog Pale Ale

I just went across the street and got my new Stone growler filled at Steelhead Brewing Co.. There was some disagreement about whether they were allowed to fill the thing, since it wasn't a Steelhead growler, but eventually they went ahead and gave me 2 liters of beer for $7.50. I went in there intending to get my favorite Steelhead beer, their Bombay Bomber IPA, but the worldwide hop shortage has hit them hard and that brew isn't available. Their recommended second choice: White Dog Pale Ale. Let's see how it is 20 minutes after being poured from the keg.

The pour: poured from the growler into a little half-liter stein, the beer develops a large, white, foamy head. The beer itself is a dark golden color, and it's very cloudy.

The aroma: there's a big, bready punch right out front, with floral hops underneath that. It smells like a pretty standard white ale.

The taste: The first thing I notice about the taste is that it's sort of watery. That might be because there's very little carbonation, which may be an artifact of getting the growler filled. The same bready malts are there, and again they get noticed first. The floral hops taste about the same as they smell, but their flavor is not nearly as full as I would like.

The rating: 5/10. It's certainly not unpleasant, but if I had to pick one word to describe this beer, it would have to be gutless. There's just nothing about it that distinguishes itself. I'm wishing I'd gotten something else; actually, I'm really wishing that the hop shortage didn't exist so that I was reviewing the Bombay Bomber right now.



Beer Blogging - Stone 11th Anniversary Ale

This is an exciting moment: I just opened the 2 L growler of Stone 11th Anniversary Ale that I bought last Saturday at the Stone Brewery. I had a 4 oz. taster glass of this at the end of our tour (which you really should take), and it was so good that I had to buy a whole bunch more of it. Plus, I got this awesome growler:

The pour: this is a deep black ale that reveals some red and brown when held up to a light. There's a tan, foamy head on top that fades to lace on the glass and the top of the beer within a couple of minutes. I poured it into a Belgian goblet glass because I remember it having a complex aroma that I think will be important to the taste.

The aroma: very complex, in fact. It manages to be fruity and smoky at the same time, which is interesting. The smoky comes from roasted barley, while the fruits are fairly light (pineapple, mango, lemon). There's also a hint of pine.

The taste: actually a lot like it smells. The roasted barley presents itself right out front, followed by a bitter lemon zest flavor. There's a nice progression from those flavors into the sweet, fruity ones. Again, the light fruits dominate here, but there are also darker, deeper fruit flavors (maybe raisins or plums; I can't quite place it). The aftertaste gets back to smoky, with a taste that's a lot like the last sip of a double espresso that had a bunch of sugar in it. I can't taste any alcohol (ABV: 8.7%), and there's a good amount of carbonation that keeps the mouthfeel from being too thick. What it all adds up to is an incredibly drinkable beer that really proves how good the folks at Stone are at their craft.

The rating: 10/10. I'm drinking this on a sunny day in Southern California (85° F), and I have to say, this makes for a great summer beer. Despite its color and big flavors, it's strangely refreshing in addition to being very tasty. Stone hit a home run with this one, and I really hope they're not planning for this to be a one-off (although I suspect they are). I would absolutely buy a case of this if they released it again.



Beer Blogging - Stone Brewery Tour

This afternoon I went down to Escondido and took a tour of the Stone brewery with frequent commenter Todd, his wife, and some people they know. It was a great tour, and if you have the chance to go I highly recommend it.

We got there an hour or so before the tour started, so we decided to get a beer and drink it in their outdoor beer garden (which is a really nice set-up). I ordered a beer that I'd never had before, the Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Pepper. As far as I could tell, it was just their Smoked Porter with chipotle pepper or pepper juice added at some point. The effect was really nice. I got it in a pint glass that was almost wineglass shaped, and it came with a quarter inch of fine brown head on it. The beer itself was almost totally opaque, showing hints of dark amber around the edges when held up to the sun. The smell was roasted malt and hints of hot pepper, and the taste was pretty much the same: it started out smoky and then some hops presented themselves at the last minute. After a few sips, a very pleasant heat built up in the back of my mouth. Overall it was a very nice beer; I'd rate it an 8/10 and if I ever see it in a store I'm buying it right away.

We took the (free) 4 PM tour of the brewery, which was very interesting. Our tour guide (Matt? I've already forgotten) was a fun guy and seemed well informed. The tour took about 45 minutes, which was just about right. After the tour, we got (free) 4-oz. taster glasses of several Stone brews. The rundown in order:

1. Stone Pale Ale: one of Stone's better beers, this is a very well balanced American-style pale ale. Good amount of malt, even better amount of hops. Tasty stuff, and very drinkable.

2. Stone Smoked Porter: I beer blogged this one here. It's pretty good as porters go, and it's also quite drinkable.

3. Stone IPA: a pretty good IPA, more well balanced than their Ruination IPA (which is really, really hoppy and also really, really good). It's malty for an IPA, and that makes it much easier to handle than a lot of IPAs.

4. Stone Arrogant Bastard: Stone's flagship beer (even though the Pale Ale was the first one they made). It's tagline is "you won't like this beer" (sometimes they substitute "you're not worthy"), and there's a reason for that: this is an aggressive beer. It doesn't have a readily identifiable style, but our tour guide said it started out as a red ale and grew from there. Anyway, it's very good, but the flavors really do punch you in the mouth, and it's not for the timid.

5. Stone 11th Anniversary Ale: most people on the tour only got four samples, but this one was a reward that Todd and I got for being willing to ask questions on the tour. Actually, I think our guide was just making up excuses to give out more free beer, and for that I consider him a god among men. The beer is a dark ale, almost too dark to be properly called an ale.

[Toast reminds us that an ale is just a beer made with top fermenting yeast. What I was thinking when I wrote this is that the beer tasted more like one of Stone's porters than one of their ales;of course, porters are in the ale family. Thanks, Toast!]

The quantity of roasted barley that went into this beer must have been enormous. It does have the amount of hops that you'd expect from an ale, and the combination is a good one. I bought a 2 L growler of this beer (they were filling them this weekend only), so a more detailed review is forthcoming.

The moral of the story is this: I heartily recommend that you go and take this tour, stay for dinner in the very nice restaurant if you have time (which we didn't), and definitely buy some beer in the store to enjoy later.



Beer Blogging - Deschutes Hop Henge Imperial IPA

Let's do another one! Next out of the beer fridge is Hop Henge Imperial IPA from Deschutes Brewery up in Oregon. Deschutes is a great brewery and I've never had a bad beer from them, so I've got high hopes for this one:

The pour: a very nice golden color and a large, white head.

The aroma: it smells a lot like floral hops. There's maybe a little bit of sweet malt and citrus as well.

The taste: very good. I wasn't familiar with the term "Imperial IPA", so I looked it up. Turns out it basically means the same thing as "Double IPA", meaning that it's in the same class as, for example, Stone's Ruination IPA. Brewers who set out to make a double IPA often succumb to the temptation to make what is basically hop soda, lacking any refinement or subtlety. Deschutes hasn't done that, in my opinion. Of course, the first flavor that you encounter when you sip this beer is the floral hops, but there's more to it than that. After the floral hops fade, there's a very sweet malty taste (the combination with the floral hops makes it taste almost like honeysuckle), followed by a bitter citrus rind flavor that sneaks underneath the malt, making for an interesting, enjoyable aftertaste.

The rating: 8/10 for a very good beer. This is a well-crafted double IPA that doesn't succumb to the stereotype of the west coast American craft brewer, pushing hops into his brew kettle with a bulldozer while adding malt with a teaspoon. If you think IPAs have too bitter of an aftertaste, give this one a try (if you can find it) - the sweetness in the aftertaste is really the best characteristic of this beer.


Beer Blogging - Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Tonight I'm drinking a bottle of a limited release beer from Stone Brewing, their Imperial Russian Stout. This is a bottle from their limited Spring 2008 release. I bet it's going to be good.

The pour: this beer pours into a pint glass thick and viscous, like particularly well-used motor oil. There's a large, brown, foamy head. Held up to the light, it's totally black.

The aroma: this is a delicious smelling beer. Seriously, it smells wonderful, and very complex. There's chocolate, black licorice, espresso, roasted malt and a bit of ethanol (10.8% ABV).

The taste: it tastes a lot like it smells, which is to say that it's very complex. Imperial stouts are usually roasted and fruity, with high alcohol contents, and this one is no exception. The fruits are accounted for by the anise and also some black currant and dark cherry (which I didn't notice in the aroma). The roasted flavor comes from some thoroughly roasted malt and also hints of espresso and chocolate. I don't taste as much ethanol as I smelled. Despite how it looked pouring out of the bottle, the mouthfeel isn't as thick as you might think (although it's thick as beers go).

The rating: 9/10 for an excellent example of an Imperial Russian Stout. I'm drinking it as a pre-dinner snack, but it would go very well with deserts like chocolate or fruit, or possibly with a particularly rich meal. If you're a fan of Imperial Stouts, this one is really good. If you don't like rich fruits and strong flavors in your beers, though, you probably should stay away from this one.



Beer Blogging - AleSmith X Extra Pale Ale

Tonight I'm drinking AleSmith X Extra Pale Ale from AleSmith Brewing Co. in San Diego. I've seen AleSmith's stuff around before, but I've never actually bought any. I picked this one up the other day at a BevMo in Lake Forest.

The pour: poured into a pint glass, this beer develops a huge head with some fairly large bubbles. Despite those bubbles, the top of the head looks almost creamy. The beer itself is a light golden color, and it's a little bit cloudy because there's yeast in the bottle. There are some very fine bubbles coming up through the center of the beer even after ~10 minutes in the glass.

The aroma: smells like hops, specifically floral hops. There's a little bit of grapefruit in there too. There's no malt to speak of, and no ethanol either (the ABV value is not on the bottle).

The taste: there's not much malt here either, in keeping with the designation on the bottle that this is an extra pale ale. AleSmith seems to have avoided the temptation to shovel hops into their brew kettle by the ton, unlike some breweries that try to make American pale ales. There's some bready malt right in the front, and then the hops take over (but not too much). Again, the hops are mostly floral, with slight citrus accents. The aftertaste is very nice, with a light maltiness that fades just when you're ready to take the next sip. A lot of beers sold in 22 oz. bombers like this are so rich that you wouldn't dream of drinking more than one; this beer is extremely drinkable.

The rating: 9/10. I really like this beer, even if I'd call it a regular old American Pale Ale rather than an Extra Pale Ale (the styles are so similar that the difference isn't worth arguing about). If you like hops but think that IPAs are too bitter and strong, this beer would be right up your alley. I'm assuming that AleSmith isn't available nationally, but if you're in California you should pick up a bottle.



Beer Blogging - Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

Since that last beer was a little disappointing, I'm going to try another one from the ol' beer fridge. Next up is Red Hook's Long Hammer IPA.

The pour: a clear golden color with a big, fluffy white head. It pretty much looks like your standard IPA.

The aroma: surprisingly light, considering all that head. You'd think there would be a ton of aroma coming off this beer. What I can pick up smells like I expect from an IPA: just floral hops and no malt. There's no citrus to speak of.

The taste: It pretty much tastes like your standard IPA, too. That's certainly not meant to be a criticism of this beer; it's a good example of a simple little India Pale Ale. The dominant flavor, of course, is hops - not the wallop of grapefruit and orange peel you'll sometimes get in those double/triple IPAs, but a nice, mellow floral taste. It finishes off with a little bitterness and a little malt, but not too much of either. The bitterness lasts the longest, but it's not so strong that it gets in the way of the next sip. There's no hint of alcohol (6.5% ABV) and a moderate amount of carbonation.

The rating: 8/10 for possibly the least intimidating IPA I've ever had. A lot of people are turned off from this style because the hops are too bitter or harsh for them. This beer won't do that to you. The drinkability is very high for an IPA. If you don't like IPAs, you might actually like this beer. Give it a try before you write the style off altogether.


Beer Blogging - Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale

So, how has everyone's Memorial Day been? Hopefully you took a moment to remember why the holiday exists. Hopefully you also ate a steak the size of your head like I did earlier. Now it's basketball time, and it's also delicious (hopefully) beer time. I'm drinking a 22 oz. bomber of Rogue's Morimoto Soba Ale.

The pour: the beer is a cloudy golden color, with lots of bubbles in the bottom of the glass. There's a large, white, fluffy head that's in ho hurry to dissolve.

The aroma: it's both hoppy and nutty. I would say the dominant aroma is hops, with bready and nutty smells underneath that.

The taste: Not at all like it smells. When I first poured it and smelled it, I was expecting a bready version of a pale ale, but that's not at all what I have here. It's more like a lager with some sharp, roasted flavors added in. The flavor starts out like a lager, by which I mean that there's not much strong flavor at all, just a sourdough maltiness. After that comes a sharp hop bite and the toasty flavor of roasted soba (buckwheat). There's a lot of carbonation, and I don't know whether or not to blame that, but the beer tastes kind of watered down (something I've never dreamed of saying about a Rogue beer).

The rating: 5/10. A decidedly mediocre offering from a generally outstanding brewer. The watered down taste kills it - I can see the flavors being good, but there needs to be more of everything. That being said, I can see this beer pairing decently well with delicately flavored sushi or a light Japanese udon soup. Anything more than that, the flavors of the food would dominate this beer. I don't think I'll buy this again - it's just not that interesting.



Beer Blogging - New Belgium Springboard Ale

It's a crisp spring day here in Southern California, and as such I decided to drink a spring seasonal beer. Specifically, I have here a glass of Springboard Ale from New Belgium Brewery.

According to the description on the side of the bottle, Springboard Ale "combines oats, ancient Chinese herbs and Mt. Hood hops to maintain a balanced equilibrium for such an exhilarating ale. This cloudy blonde has a spirited threshold, and a creamy body, followed by a refreshingly dry finish." The front of the label says that it's a blend of 98% ale brewed with Wormwood, Lycium and Schisandra, and 2% ale aged in oak barrels. Let's see if all that verbiage adds up to a tasty beverage.

The pour: well, it certainly is a cloudy blonde. There's a big head that comes up as I finish pouring, and then just as quickly fades away to lace. I must have poured it too quickly, because there's a layer of yeast left in the bottom of the bottle.

The aroma: it's almost fruity, actually, which I didn't expect from the description on the label. The main aroma seems to be lemon, but not a hoppy lemon peel. There's no malt to speak of. It certainly smells like a seasonal brewed for springtime.

The taste: They nailed the description of the body - it is very creamy. There's almost no carbonation, which is kind of strange in a beer with this delicate of a flavor. The first flavor to hit you is a very light malt, not the strong toasted biscuit that I've come to expect from New Belgium beers. After that is the creamy section of the beer, which has that lemon flavor and also some very light hops. The aftertaste is almost tangy, which I think comes from the herbs but I can't be sure. Overall this beer is very different from anything I've ever had from New Belgium. That's not a bad thing; it's always good to see that a brewer is trying new things.

The rating: 7/10. The flavors, once you can pick them out (they're very faint), work well together. The reason that it didn't get a higher rating is this: when a seasonal has a light, almost fruity flavor like this, I'm looking for it to be refreshing, a warm day kind of beer. This one almost gets there, but the aftertaste detracts from that a bit and the drinkability suffers as a result. I think the Chinese herbs take away from my enjoyment of the beer. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I'd say it's worth buying a 6-pack and trying it.



Beer Blogging - Stone Vertical Epic #7

This beer is part of Stone's Vertical Epic series. If you're not familiar with the idea, I'll let them tell you about it:

As with any good epic, herein lies the promise of larger-than-life experiences, heroics and twists & turns as the adventure unfolds. These bottle-conditioned ales are specifically designed to be aged until sometime after December 12th, 2012. Provided you can wait that long. At that time, enjoy them in a "vertical" tasting. Each one unique to it's year of release. Each with its own "twist & turn" in the plotline. Each one released one year, one month and one day from the previous year's edition.

To my everlasting shame, I had never heard of this before last month. The first beer in the Vertical Epic series was released six years ago, on Feb. 2, 2002. The bottle I have here was released on July 7, 2007. I found it in a very small liquor store along a highway outside of Anza Borrego State Park in San Diego County. I was eating at a Mexican restaurant that didn't serve beer, so I went next door to the liquor store to buy a 6-pack. I came out with the 6-pack and this:

Since this is designed to be opened four and a half years from now, I feel sort of bad about drinking it tonight. If I find more, I will certainly buy it (along with any others in the series I can find). I'm not confident, though, since I'll be leaving the west coast in a two months. It seems kind of silly to age a single bottle of beer for 4 years. If I can do even half the series I will wait, but for now I'm going to enjoy this one. Let's see what we've got.

The pour: a thick, white, fluffy head springs up right away and disappears almost as quickly. The beer itself has a very nice golden honey color.

The aroma: it smells like a strong Belgian ale, with lots of malt. The aromas are apple, banana and honey, and a little bit of biscuit.

The taste: it tastes like a strong Belgian ale as well. That same honey flavor is prominent, as is the banana. I'm starting to doubt whether I smelled apple at all, because I can't taste any. As it warms up a little, I can taste a bit of coriander and maybe a little bubblegum. The bottle tells me that the brewer added orange peel, lemon peel and grapefruit peel, and all three come through (well, the taste of citrus peel generally does) during the aftertaste, as well as a decent wallop of ginger. There's a ton of carbonation (made naturally in the bottle), which is actually a pretty good complement to the flavors. I can taste some alcohol, but not a lot (the bottle says 8.4%). Overall there is a very nice progression from sweet out front to spices in the aftertaste. Those guys at Stone really know how to put a beer together.

Maybe it would be better after some more aging (it's had 9 months in the bottle, but was meant to sit for 5 years), but I couldn't wait. They do have some very detailed homebrewing recipes for all these beers at this website; maybe I'll make it when I move and get some homebrewing supplies, and let it age for a while.

The rating: 7/10. It's a decent Belgian ale right now. If you see some and you have more patience than me, pick some up and let it sit for a while. I'll bet it gets better.



Beer Blogging - Maredsous Triple

I can't believe I haven't blogged this one before! It's Maredsous - 10 - Triple, and I already know it's going to be good. I'm drinking this along with my dinner, a warm salad with beef that was slow cooked in chianti and garlic. Let's get drinkin'!

The pour: it's a very nice red-gold color, and it's fairly clear so you can see all the bubbles in the bottom of the glass. There's a huge, fluffy head that leaves lace all around the glass as it recedes.

The aroma: it's malty! There are hints of apple and honey, and no sign of hops anywhere. That's to be expected for a Belgian ale, especially a triple. These beers wouldn't be called "balanced", as such, except in that they can have malt flavors which complement each other.

The taste: similarly malty. Really malty. I can taste honey, apple, and pear. There's almost too much carbonation; the mouthfeel is almost like champagne. I think that if there was a little less carbonation, the flavors might be too strong, so I'm not going to complain. This beer has 10% ABV, but you would never know it from the smell or taste. I like that in a beer - it holds its alcohol well. The only place where it might come out is the aftertaste, but even then it's just a warmth in the back of your throat, not an actual taste. Overall it's a very good beer, but you have to be willing to put up with more carbonation than you usually get in a beer.

The rating: 8/10. I've had this beer before and I think it had less carbonation, so that might not be a constant for all bottles of Maredsous Triple. I have to say that the Maredsous Double (with the "8" on the label instead of the "10") is a much better beer. If you like Belgian Triples this one's not a bad one, but if you're looking at a bottle of this on a shelf there's probably a bottle of Ommegang Three Philosophers right near by. Get that one instead.

UPDATE: Shit. I did do it already! For fuck's sake, it's the second result on a Google search for Maredsous Triple! It just wasn't in my beer blogging archive for some reason. Last time I gave it a 9/10, probably because that bottle was less carbonated. Let's split the difference and call it an 8.5/10.

That rating brings the average of all my beer ratings up to 6.799 out of 10; that's the average of 82 ratings. Wow, I've blogged about a fair amount of beers!



Beer Blogging - Moylan;s Moylander Double IPA

It's finally baseball season! Right now I'm watching the Angels' season opener; they're trailing the Twins 3-2 in the top of the 8th. Let's drink some beer.

The pour: Golden red with a lot of fine bubbles that result in a white, thin head. It's a pretty looking beer.

The aroma: It smells like an IPA. Lots of floral, fruity hops. I can smell orange, grapefruit, and a little sweetness (honey maybe).

The taste: Much more going on here than there was in the aroma. The first thing that hits your tongue is that sweetness that it's still hard to define, but I'll say it's honey. The label says this beer has "double hops and double malt", but if they put a lot of malt in here I can't find it. Next is the floral hops and the orange, but that transitions quickly into the last flavor/aftertaste. The finish is very bitter, with hints of grapefruit, and you have to wait a second before you can take another sip. There's zero hint of alcohol (8.5% by volume), and a good amount of carbonation. Overall, this beer isn't that well put together. They were going for an IPA with more flavor when they made this a double IPA, but all they did was drown the malt in a sea of hops. I'm not a shrinking violet by any means when it comes to hops, but I do appreciate a little balance - there's such a thing as going overboard. The overall effort wasn't that successful, and even the beautiful pour can't salvage it.

The rating: 4/10. The label is covered in medals that this beer presumably won at different beer tasting festivals, but I can't for the life of me see how. It does have live yeast in it, so maybe it's too old or not old enough or something. Still, I can't see recommending it because it's such a one-trick pony. There are probably 10 better, more interesting IPAs (Lagunitas Maximus, for one) brewed within 50 miles of where this one is made (Novato, CA). Buy one of those.