.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
<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.