Beer: Robert Johnson’s Hellhound On My Ale
Brewery: Dogfish Head
Location: Milton, DE
Type: American Double/Imperial IPA
In Three Words: hoppy, lemony, bold
Once again, Dogfish Head manages to take a beer trend I think I am tired of and make it delicious. We all know hops are a thing right now and the hoppier the beer, the more you are supposed to enjoy it, right? Not always. Some beers severely overdo it and make it difficult to enjoy the drink at all. But this beer, the Hellhound Ale, is absolutely delicious. Besides the hops, there is a huge amount of citrus flavor that comes through upon the very first drink. Till the last drop in the bottle, the taste is bold and delicious. On the bottle they have inscribed at the bottom “Ale brewed with lemons”, which is what first intrigued me; that lemon taste is definitely my favorite aspect of the beer. Absolutely delicious.
To balance out the hops there is a tad bit of sweetness that comes through and a heavy carbonation. I honestly felt like I was drinking a citrus fruit drink at times were it not for the perfect amount of alcohol taste that surfaces at the end of each sip. Surprisingly, despite the amount of hops and citrus fruit involved in the making of this beer, it is not that bitter. Maybe this is what places this beer over the other ones in the hop fad that is going on. Dogfish Head certainly knows how to brew ‘em. Thank god this only comes in large bottles; you’re not going to want any less.
In addition to this, fun tidbit about the name of the beer, straight from the Dogfish Head website: “2011 would have marked the 100th birthday of Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson, who according to legend, sold his soul down at the crossroads in a midnight bargain and changed music forever. Working again with our friends at Sony Legacy (yup, the same folks we did our Miles Davis-inspired Bitches Brew with), Dogfish Head paid tribute to this blues legend by gettin’ the hellhounds off his trail and into this finely-crafted ale.”
Beer: Hop Stoopid Ale
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Location: Petaluma, CA
In Three Words: intense, hoppy, bold
America’s premier “brewpaper” The Celebrator calls this beer “big and stinky”. They mean it in the best way, and so do I. This beer is so incredibly hoppy, it’s stupid (or stoopid, I guess). I have to admit I have been growing increasingly jaded about the hop trend that has been going on for beers these days; some times the beers just come out simply way too bitter and it is difficult to enjoy them without feeling like your cheeks are being constantly pinched. But Lagunitas does it right. They blend that hoppiness with an array of other flavors that just makes it balanced and great tasting.
The citrus under-taste (if I may invent a term) mixed with a really nice malt flavor is what keeps this beer from being overly bitter. The first thing I noticed upon tasting it is actually a sweet flavor mixed with the malt, and then the bitterness after. Despite this, the beer itself is very light. Not dark or intense in the heavy way; the intensity of the flavor comes from the very bubbly quality (could rival a champagne) mixed with that intense hop that they are doing so well.
All around, light but intense, bold without being overwhelming. Stoopid good.
Brewery: North Coast Brewing
Location: Fort Bragg, CA
Type: Belgian Style Golden Ale
In Three Words: light, simple, classic
I have never tried a beer from this brewery before, and the Pranqster ale caught my eyes because of it’s classic approach to beer: the cork in the top and the illustration of a bunch of merry men merry-making with great casks and pints of ale seemed to embody everything that beer has come from.
I was not disappointed. This is indeed a very classic beer, light with a bold taste that is easy to sip. There are hints of fruit that come through but overall, I really can’t think of a better word to describe it other than “golden”. It just tastes like a ray of sunshine. A slight bitterness comes through to balance it all out so it becomes far from boring. The different aromas overcome you as you drink it but the taste remains airy and satisfying. No overpowering stench or hoppy bitterness; just a refined light taste that I feel like could go well with everything.
This is also a very bubbly beer, making fora tingly taste when combined with the fruity lightness of the brew itself. Absolutely delicious all around.
Instantly a favorite.
Anchor Brewery Zymaster launch party
Last night I had the honor of attending Anchor Brewery in San Francisco’s launch party for their new Zymaster Beer series. They released the first two in the series on this evening and the beer was flowing.
It was a great evening all around and both the beers they were launching were delicious. One was the Zymaster No. 1: California Lager, a delicious historical beer. Upon hearing it was a lager, I was very impressed and surprised. It was full of flavor, delicious, full bodied, and all around a varying taste that changed with each sip. However it retained the lightness of a lager, and was so easy to just keep sipping as you ate the delicious food that was provided. I had three glasses of it before I even knew what had happened. Absolutely great.
The recipe was based off of an old California Lager recipe they had dug up from a brewery in Boca, California in the 1800s. Anchor has been consistently interested in the history of the brewery and beer making in the West, and the ways they incorporate that history into their beer making is wonderful. They had signs up explaining the heritage of the beer and how it was made, and how they adapted that formula to their own brew process.
The other beer that I was very fortunate to try last nigh was their O.B.A. (Our Barrel Ale, an American Strong Ale) that is a series of different ales combined together and then left to ferment and sit in an old whiskey barrel. So delicious. The wood of the barrel comes through as does the slight whiskey taste, and overall the ale is an original and strong one. The O.B.A. was another special beer they were promoting alongside the Zymaster No. 1. To accompany the two, they served up their signature Brekle’s Brown, a recent brew for them, released just last year.
Food was amazing, atmosphere was fun. There was an abundant amount of meat, pasta, cheese and bread being served with the beer and the brewery was packed.
These two beers, the Zymaster No. 1 and O.B.A., will not be available in bottles or anywhere else except for select bars and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. So watch for them. This is the first part in a series Anchor hopes to continue of making unique limited edition beers for the Bay Area specifically.
Read more about the Zymaster series and Anchor’s plans for it on their news page here
All photos taken by me
Beer: Brekle’s Brown
Brewery: Anchor Brewing Company
Location: San Francisco, CA
Type: Brown ale
In Three Words: malty, nutty, bold
Once again, Anchor has produced a beer that I really love and can’t get enough of. After touring Anchor Brewery a couple weeks ago (still be to be posted about), I had to grab a bottle of this signature beer they just came out with in honor of one of their original master brewers (who was named Gottlieb Brekle). He started the brewery way back in 1871. This beer is in honor of the 140 years of brewing tradition the brewery has undergone (phew, that’s a lot).
The beer is dark when you pour it with a soft brown color; pretty much exactly how it tastes if I was one of those people who can taste colors (I forget, is that a thing?) It’s strong without being overpowering and has a smooth malty, almost creamy, flavor that rolls over your tongue perfectly. The darkness of the beer comes through in the little twinge you get in the corners of your mouth from the hops that have been balanced out to a tee with the malts. They exist in a yin-yang relationship in this glass of beer that comes straight out of the bottle.
Definitely hoppier than your average brown ale, I think that is precisely what gives this beer it’s original and snappy taste. The bitterness that comes through is accentuated by a sweetness that I can’t quite place (maybe a chocolate?) but only allows for the brown ale malt to act as the counter to that. Together they make for a really authentic yet all around distinctive take on the traditional brown ale.
Beer: The Ahwahnee Amber Ale
Brewery: Mammoth Brewing Company
Location: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Type: Amber ale
In Three Words: dark, malty, smooth
This is a pretty special beer that I was saving to review. It’s special because it is a select and limited edition beer that Mammoth Brewing Co. (which is host to a plethora of other delicious beers) brews specifically to be sold at The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. The hotel is the oldest in the park, a national monument, and absolutely beautiful. It seems only fitting that it should get it’s own beer.
The ale is, while not super special, delicious. Light yet full bodied, it doesn’t come forward with an especially strong taste, but rather hits you lightly with a tender tap of flavor. There isn’t a lot as far as other tastes go; it really just is a wholesome natural amber ale, smooth and easy to drink. This seems to reflect, in my mind at least, what the park itself is all about. Whenever I am lucky enough to be in Yosemite (which is often, thanks to my proximity while I am home) I am struck by how much of it is left untouched. This ale does quite the same thing; it is uncomplicated, prevailing, and homey. There is warmness that is reminiscent of camp fires, and a nutty even flavor with just a hint of bitterness.
On the other side of things, it’s true that it is not terribly experimental or original as far as many craft beers go. However the originality here comes in that it is the only official beer of Yosemite National Park and is thus, only available there and occasionally at the tap room at Mammoth (technically also located in Yosemite). Enjoy if you can! It’s like sipping the mountains themselves.
Brewery: Deschutes Brewery
Location: Bend, OR
Type: Dark ale
In Three Words: dark, malty, smooth
I stopped by a grocery store on the way home in hopes of picking up Snow Day by New Belgium Brewing (will be doing that one later as well thought, with luck). Upon not finding it I asked a guy at the counter for another suggestion and he told me this. Very happy he did, because this is a delicious beer. It is dark without being too strong; it’s smooth and has hints of flavors that all come through really slowly and delicately. This delicateness combined with the bold malty flavor sets a really nice note for easy sipping.
The flavors are pretty abundant. In the first note I could taste fruits, spices, and a hoppiness I hadn’t noticed before in a lot of ales. It all tasted so good put together that I had to take another sip right away, and in that second sip I began to perceive a chicory taste, and the alcohol seemed to come through a bit more. The more I drank it, the more I noticed.
Deschutes, on their website, says of this beer: “To beer lovers, it’s like Yule fire and family”. I don’t feel I will sum it up in a better way. It is warm, rich, interesting, and all around a new favorite of mine for the holidays.
Happy Holidays, from me.