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<strong>The Disgruntled Chemist</strong>


Beer Blogging - St. Rogue Red Ale

Man, today was a long day. We had a bunch of community members and other assorted interested parties coming through the lab taking tours, making sure their (and your) tax dollars are being spent wisely. Joke's on them - they didn't get to see us sitting around and drinking after they left!

I bring it up because my role in all this was basically to talk for an hour and a half straight about what it is we do in our lab. This has made me thirsty and tired, and nothing goes with thirsty and tired like delicious beer. Specifically, this beer:

This is a 22 ounce bomber of St. Rogue Red Ale, from Rogue Ales. This bottle was dedicated by the brewers "to Fukutsuru, a Japanese Waygu bull whose offspring produce the premium grade American Kobe beef that is served with St. Rogue Red." They note that "in his final days, Fuku was given the opportunity to 'socialize' with some fine, young cows. Instead, he chose to take a nap. [They] dedicate this beer to Fuku - a rogue to the very end."

That's sweet. Now, on to the beer. It poured a very dark reddish copper color, with a big foamy head that lasted for a couple minutes. It smells very malty with a note of the signature Rogue hops underneath. There's really no hint of the 5.2% alcohol, but that's not too surprising. The first thing you taste is roasted malt and maybe some toffee, but that doesn't really stick around long. This is a dry hopped ale, and it shows after the malt character dies down. The hops certainly aren't as strong as they normally are in a Rogue beer, but that's because this is supposed to be an Amber ale. For an Amber, it's pretty hoppy and not very malty, but the overall effect really works well. The aftertaste is pretty faithful to the flavor of the beer, with a little more sweet malt.

Rating: 7/10. This is a very drinkable beer. Recommended for people who think IPAs and pale ales have a little too much bite, or for people who are fans of both amber ales and pale ales.



Beer Blogging - Trader Joe's 2006 Vintage Ale

Hey, what a surprise: I'm blogging about beer again. Tonight I'm eating the leftovers of an amazing dinner I had last night (lamb slow-roasted with various vegetables and served over ribbon noodles), and since I couldn't have it with a really expensive bottle of wine like last night, I decided to break out a tasty beer. Enter: Trader Joe's 2006 Vintage Ale. It's brewed by Unibroue, makers of La Fin Du Monde and other very fine ales.

The bottle describes this as 750 mL (the size of a typical wine bottle) of a Dark Ale with 9% alcohol by volume. Upon pouring it into one of my favorite beer glasses, I can confirm that it is indeed dark; it's a very deep brown that borders on black. The only way to tell that it's brown is to hold it up to the light. It poured with a large brown head full of very large bubbles, and after a couple minutes there's still an eighth of an inch of head on top. The aroma is very malty, all molasses and brown sugar, and I swear I smelled a little Coke in there too.

After my first sip of this beer, I let out an audible "woah". After my second sip, I've decided that I won't be just tasting this beer, I'll be experiencing it. There's a lot going on here. I don't even know how to describe it - the closest I can come is a combination of champagne and dark ale. There's an awful lot of carbonation, but it's not a bad thing at all, maybe because of all the sweetness. There's a complex, layered flavor happening: on top is that molasses-y sweetness, and underneath that is something that tastes a lot like apple cider or maybe a really dry champagne. There's also a hint of pear, but not really any taste of that "Coke" flavor I smelled in the aroma.

There's a very slight hint of the 9% alcohol, but nothing much. It's going really well with this lamb, too - if you're going to get this, you should really drink it with some sort of rich meat.

Rating: 7/10. Recommended for people who don't mind a little carbonation in their beer, and those who like sweet dark Belgian ales. If you've had some beers from Unibroue before, you might be a little disappointed in this one, but if you approach it as just another beer you will probably enjoy it.



Beer Blogging - Rogue Ales Mocha Porter

Apparently, this blog is becoming all beer, all the time. Not that I really have a problem with this...but some of you might be annoyed. Sorry about that.

Anyway, here's a beer that's been in the fridge for a long time, just waiting to be blogged about: the Mocha Porter from Rogue Ales.

As you would expect, this is a very dark beer with a nice tan head. The head sticks around for a minute before fading away and leaving some lace on the sides of the glass. It smells about how you'd expect, too: like something named a mocha porter. There are dark roasted hops and some dark chocolate present in the aroma, although the coffee doesn't really present itself.

The taste is a different matter: you can definitely tell there's coffee in there. The mocha flavor comes first, in the form of espresso and dark chocolate flavors. Next is a roasted flavor from the roasted malt; there is very little (if any) hop taste, which is understandable for a porter but kind of weird for something that came out of a bottle with "ROGUE" on it. The aftertaste brings a resurgence of the espresso flavor, which is bitter without being as harsh as espresso usually is (especially if it comes in a Starbucks cup).

Rating: 7/10. Recommended for fans of porters and chocolate stouts.


Beer Blogging - Smithwick's Irish Ale

Sticking with the Irish beer theme of the last post, I just opened a bottle of Smithwick's Irish Ale, made by the same people who brew Guinness.

I don't know why, but I expected this beer to be a lot lighter in color than it is. This Irish ale poured with a deep amber color and a big, fluffy white head that dissipated (leaving a lot of lace behind) within two minutes. The aroma almost reminds me of a lager; it's a little sour and there's a lot of sweet malt. It actually surprised me at first with how sweet it was.

The taste: well, it tastes a lot like it smells. The initial taste is an almost coppery sweetness, which is followed by the rest of the flavor. The sour note is even more pronounced, which kind of gets in the way of the malts until the very end of the flavor. When the malts do show up, they taste like caramel and maybe butterscotch. The hops are not pronounced at all. For a second I didn't think there was any aftertaste, but then I got a random flash of butterscotch on the back of my tongue. That was kind of cool.

Rating: 5/10. Meh - if it wasn't so sour it'd be a lot better. It's possible that I just got a bad six-pack, so I'll probably try it again just to be sure. This rating is subject to change. Oh, and it's recommended for fans of lagers, especially the big American lagers, who wants something with just slightly more interesting flavors.


Beer Blogging - Guinness Draught

Hmmm, here I sit pretty much bound to my couch. The NCAA tournament games don't start for an hour and a half. What to do?

Wait, what's this?


I'm sure most people reading this blog have at least tried Guinness, on St. Patrick's Day if nothing else. It's kind of a love-it-or-hate-it beer, I've found. Personally I can drink the stuff by the pitcher (the alcohol content is only about 4%), but some people will spit it out.

Pouring a Guinness is a treat. If you order a Guinness at a bar and they serve it to you in less than about a minute and a half, the bartender doesn't know what he's doing. If you watch a pint get poured, you can see that the beer seems to "settle"; the settling is actually carbonation from the outside of the head moving down as bubbles in the center of the beer move quickly into the head (in other words, it's convection). Whatever the explanation, it's fun to watch. The light brown head that you end up with is about a quarter inch thick, it lasts forever, and it's wonderfully creamy. You do not want to wait for the head to dissipate before you start drinking.

The smell of a Guinness is actually pretty rich. You can really smell the roasted hops, and you also get a hint of the slight coffee flavor that the beer has. Guinness Draught is pretty much black in the glass, but if you hold it up to a very bright light you can see a hint of red (which you can kind of see on the bottom of the glass in the picture above).

Now on to the drinking. Taking a sip of Guinness early in the glass is a pleasure. The first thing you get is that aforementioned creamy head, which has a much lighter flavor than the rest of the beer: hints of coffee and maybe milk chocolate, but not much of a roasted taste. Mixed with the main body of the beer, it's quite a treat. As for that body of the beer, I like to drink it a little warm to really bring out the flavors. Most bars, in my estimation, serve it far too cold.

That might be just me, though. Anyway, this beer's got some ass to it - drinking a pitcher is a lot like eating a big hamburger. The first taste you get is a surprisingly light roasted flavor, which increases in intensity as the beer warms up. After the roasted flavor, you get a strong coffee note, without really noticing the milk chocolate that peeks out in the head. The aftertaste sticks around for a while, with the roasted malt taste predominating.

Rating: 8/10. Guinness is not my favorite stout ever, but it's very, very tasty and incredibly drinkable. I don't see ever getting tired of the taste of this beer. It's recommended for anyone who likes dark beers, but if you like dark beers you've probably already had it. I will say that for you lager drinkers, this beer is a lot closer to a lager (in flavor intensity, not flavor) than any craft brewed stout I've ever had. You should try it.

Hey, look what I found! Here's me after a tour of the Guinness brewery in Dublin:

Man, that was a cool tour. Drinking two pints of Guinness in a bar overlooking the city of Dublin at ten in the morning was pretty nice, too.



Beer Blogging - 2° Below

Here we go again! This UCLA vs. Weber St. game is pretty ugly at this point - UCLA is the clearly superior team, both in basketball skills and in athleticism. I really wish CBS would show us the Duke/VCU game (50-52 Duke with 15 minutes left), but knowing how bad they are about putting on the best football game available, I don't hold out much hope for them switching. In other news, more beer!

This is New Belgium's winter seasonal offering, 2° Below. It's a dry hopped winter ale that's almost frozen during brewing, according to the label, to give it some sort of unique flavor. The color is similar to an IPA, and the head is big and fluffy. It actually smells nothing like the typical dry-hopped ale; the aroma is mostly sweet malt, with a little bit of toasted malt and almost no hops.

The taste is similarly strange for a dry-hopped beer, but that's not a bad thing at all. This beer is reminiscent of New Belgium's most famous offering, Fat Tire - the predominant flavor is of toasted malts, but this beer is a little lighter than Fat Tire. You can taste some hops in the very beginning of the flavor and in the aftertaste; they're bitter but not strong at all. There's very little hint of the 6.6% alcohol content. The aftertaste is very long-lasting and tastes a lot like the beer itself - toasted malt with a little bit of hops. Tasty.

Rating: 7/10. A very drinkable winter ale, lighter than the typical winter beer. Recommended for people who like Belgian-style ales. Also, I get the feeling that fans of pumpkin beers (and other spiced seasonal beers) would like this one.


Beer Blogging - Brooklyn Brown Ale

Finally, we get a game! Actually, we've gotten two: the Duke/Virginia Commonwealth game came on before the others, so we got that for about ten minutes, and now we're watching UCLA work up to their inevitable domination of Weber State. As I watch, I'm drinking another beer I bought in New York City: Brooklyn Brand Brown Ale.

This brown ale is darker than the most common brown ale, Newcastle, that you often see. It pours with a pretty big head, but it's not very thick and it goes away pretty quickly. The aroma, surprisingly, has some hops to it, but mostly it smells like roasted malt.

This beer tastes surprisingly dark; what I mean by that is that it tastes almost more like a porter than a brown ale. The predominant malt flavor here is roasted, but there's also a little bit of chocolatey sweetness. I can't really taste any hops, because the beer finishes off with a rich, roasted flavor that I have a feeling is drowning out any bitterness that might be present. There's a fair amount of carbonation (unlike a porter), and no hint of the 5.6% alcohol. This is a decent brown ale, but there's nothing too special about it. Let's just say that, since I can get Newcastle out here, I'm not heartbroken about not being able to get this one.

Rating: 5/10. Recommended for people in New York and surrounding areas who like brown ales and porters.


Beer Blogging - Magic Hat H.I.P.A.

Since CBS insists on not showing me the only NCAA tournament game that's being played right now (instead of Vanderbilt nearly doubling up George Washington at 7:34 of the second half, I get Judge Judy), I'm gonna drink some more. Next up: Magic Hat H.I.P.A.

I got this one on the recommendation of Toast when I was back in New York; I actually had it when I was back there and I really enjoyed it, but it was one of many beers I had that night, so I don't exactly remember it. I'll be approaching this glass with a fresh outlook.

The pour: there's a little head, but it disappears into lace on top of the beer very quickly. The color is a light amber, pretty typical for an IPA. Also typical for an IPA is the aroma: lots and lots of hops. I smell a lot of grapefruit, and also some lighter floral hops. There's also a tiny bit of malt smell. No hint of alcohol (the beer has 6.8% ABV).

The taste: delicious. That grapefruit is back right away, right out in front of the flavor. The bitter hops come next, accompanied by something that tastes kind of like citrus rind. There's really no malt in the flavor to speak of, and maybe just a little in the aftertaste. The beer is really just about hops, but despite that the flavor almost feels light. I could drink it pretty quickly, at any rate, which may be due just as much to the relatively light carbonation as it is to the absence of overpowering flavors.

Rating: 8/10. If you like IPAs and you have access to this beer, you've probably already tried it. If you haven't, what the hell are you waiting for?


Beer Blogging - Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale

I left work early today to come watch the NCAA tournament (well, I'll be looking up papers too, but mostly it's about basketball), so I thought I'd have a beer or four. First up: Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale. Ahh, the San Diego red trolley. I've ridden it down to Mexico (well, to the border) for many a drunken evening. Oh, the memories.

This beer is very appealing to pour. It's a nice, reddish amber color, and there's just the right amount of carbonation. The head is light and fluffy and not persistent at all - it gets out of the way quickly. The aroma is really malty, with just a hint of floral hops - it smells pretty interesting for a red ale. Edit: I looked it up, and this is actually supposed to be an "American red ale", whatever that is. They also say it has 5.8% ABV, which seems about right.

The taste follows the smell pretty faithfully in this beer: it's mostly about the caramel malt, which is nice and sweet without being cloying. There's maybe a little taste of vanilla as well. The hops are barely there at all - they try to come in during the aftertaste, but even if you're trying to taste them it's hard to do with all that malt. Really, this beer almost tastes more like a bock than a red ale, but it's a little lighter than the typical bock. It definitely doesn't follow the style of a red ale [edit: or an amber ale, for that matter. It's very drinkable - I can see having several of these on a warm, sunny day (like today, in fact). According to the brewer (see link above), I'm supposed to be tasting toffee, raisins and currants; I suppose I can see the toffee, but I'm not getting anything like raisins or currants from this. Maybe the malty sweetness is just drowning it out. They're certainly right about it being "quaffable", though.

Rating: 6/10. Recommended for people who like sweeter beers.



Beer Blogging - Blind Faith

It's time for some beer blogging! This afternoon I'm sitting down with a beer from Magic Hat that I picked up before I left New York City. I bought four different kinds of Magic Hat; today I'm trying their Blind Faith India Pale Ale.

The defining characteristic of an IPA is that it's made with a lot of hops, but the aroma of Blind Faith still surprised me with how hoppy it was. I can smell both floral and bitter hops in there. It pours with a fairly large head that dissipates over the course of about a minute, and the color is an almost reddish gold.

First impression: that is a tasty beer. There's a strong, almost citrus-y hop flavor right out front that pretty much dominates while the beer is in the mouth. There's a very little bit of sweet malt there, but you've really got to look for it. The aftertaste is great: it starts out with bitter hops and finishes after a good long while with an almost bready malt. This beer is not short on flavor. There's a good amount of carbonation to it as well.

Rating: 8/10. A very solid, very drinkable IPA that packs a lot of hop flavor without beating you over the head with it. I can see why Toast likes it so much, even though a search through his beer blogging archive shows that he's never reviewed it. What's up with that, Toast?



Beer Blogging - Karl Strauss Amber Lager

I'm sitting here grading some lab reports, and if I deserve a beer for any reason, that's it. I just cracked open a Karl Strauss Amber Lager - let's see what we've got.

Pouring this one into a glass confirms that it is, in fact, an amber lager. There's a deep amber color, and sitting on top of that is a persistent, foamy white head. As for the aroma, it's pretty much a typical lager, with a lot more floral hops present. That's promising.

Karl Strauss' Amber Lager is an extremely drinkable lager. Picture a Sam Adams lager, with a flavor that's simultaneously a little lighter and a little more complex - it's bordering on tasting like a Belgian style ale, actually. There's a bready, malty taste right out front, and that's followed by those floral hops (which are much more understated than they were in the aroma). There's a slightly bitter hop aftertaste, but the flavor is mostly about malt. Like I said, it's very drinkable, even if it's a little light for my taste.

Rating: 7/10. A very servicable lager that might be a good alternative for people who are getting a little tired of the standard American macrobrews, or who like Sam Adams but want something a little lighter. I don't know how available it is outside of southern California, though.