September 2007

Monthly Archive

Mackeson Triple Stout

Posted by on 30 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

This is the “Original and Genuine Triple Stout” according to the Mackeson label. My love bought it for me to try.

I should pause here for a moment to say how much I love my woman. She is like no other. She is my sunshine. She is my everything. She buys me beer and coffee to try.

She is also my editor. In fact, that’s how I met her. But, we’re drifting off the subject…

So, I have this Mackeson bottle, which looks familiar, but I don’t remember if I’ve had it before. So I pop the top and take a whiff.

Immediately I know I’m going to like it. I smell chocolate and coffee mixed in with the dark roasted malts. My love has picked me a winner.

Did I mention how much I love her?

I really, really, really love her, and not just because she buys me beer.

So I raise this bottle to my lips and take that first luxurious swig, and … it tastes familiar. Very familiar. It tastes almost exactly like Left Hand Milk Stout, which I love, but with extra chocolate and coffee. It’s sweet, full bodied and over-the-top flavorful. The aftertaste is like creamy coffee.

Now, I know not everyone has the same tastes. If you’re a beer purist you may not like these chocolate coffee beers. In fact when I was Googling for background information, I found one guy on who proclaimed this beer to be “Worse than amateur porn.”

I couldn’t agree less. But then again, um, I’m not really sure about the porn reference. Me, I’m looking for the Holy Beer, and this one is a contender. I rate it a solid 6.3 on the Holy Grail scale.

And here’s a heartfelt thank you going out to my love.

ILU x 11

Xingu Black Beer

Posted by on 29 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!

I saw this down at my local beer heaven and the bottle jumped out at me. Dark dangerous voodoo beer, you must buy me!

Well, not exactly voodoo beer, but close. It comes from Brazil, and is the attempt to recreate the infamous black beer made by Amazon Indian tribes — beer used in tribal religious and social ceremonies. Witch doctor beer. Shaman beer.

Magic beer.

So I get this bottle home and pop the top (it’s a twist off), lift the glass opening to my face and sniff cautiously. Xingu (pronounced ‘shin-goo’) smells like umber malt, brown sugar and molasses. To me, it smells good. In fact it smells fantastic.

I put the bottle to my lips and tip it back.

Ooo. It’s smooth. It’s one of those brews where you have force yourself not to drink the whole bottle down in one long gulp. It tastes almost chocolate sweet, with toffee notes riding strong over the dark roasted malt. The hops give a Cavendish sweet-tobacco aftertaste that blooms late but fades quickly.

Again, I have to force myself not to slurp it down like a kid with candy.

Despite my attempts to savor it over time, the bottle is empty. And while I enjoyed it, and while it’s most definitely a groovy brew, it’s not quite a Holy Beer contender.

Even if it is magic.

Flying Dog Dogtoberfest

Posted by on 27 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

Last weekend was one of our local Oktoberfests, and I was staying in a hotel right down the street from it. But did I go to it? Did I?


I was previously engaged at one of the area’s premier Sci-Fi conventions as a guest writer, an honor I could not turn down … not even for a beer festival. So I gazed longingly at the Oktoberfest posters and consoled myself with all the free-flowing beer at the after-hour room parties … Sci-Fi fans really know how to party … and I had a total blast.

Then I get home and what do I find in the mail? A big cardboard box full of packing peanuts, and inside that box, amid all the packing, was a single bottle of beer.

My friends from Flying Dog had sent me (and apparently every other beer blogger on the planet) a sample of their seasonal Dogtoberfest beer. I had to laugh, and not only at the wonderfully deranged Steadman artwork on the label, but the idea of a single bottle of beer being UPS’ed around in such a big box.

So today, after a long day of arranging letters in useful patterns, I come home from work and pull this small piece of Oktoberfest out of my fridge and pop the top. Taking a sniff, I’m rewarded with the scent of sweet hops, brown malts, and a hint of butterscotch.

I already know it’s going to be good. Flying Dog has never let me down. Ever.

The first sip not a disappointment. Sweet, delicate, nutty, the hops run with the flavor, chased by the toasty malts. The two play tag to see who is more dominant, but I have to say the hops win. It finishes with a slight metallic ring, tasting like it had come from a can instead of a bottle, but it’s not unpleasant. The beer lingers sweet on the palate with just enough bitterness to tone it down.

I love this beer. It’s a groovy brew. I give it 4.7 on the Holy Grail Scale, and, I’m definitely picking up a six pack this weekend.

Flensburger Dunkel

Posted by on 24 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

The final entry in my Flensburger quadrilogy of reviews, I saved the best for the last.

I’m guessing, of course … but dark beers have always been my favorite. German dark beers have never let me down.

I have high hopes for this one.

I pop the top, take a nice sniff. Dark malt scents reward my nose, smelling delicious and fresh. There’s overtones of hops and brown sugar. Licking my lips, I raise the heavy bottle to my mouth.

Caramel sweet dark toasted malt with a standing ovation of hoppy goodness. Oh yes. After drinking wheat and pilsners, this is something I’ve been craving. Underneath is a kind of rye, peppery spice note, fading to a dry maltiness that, while good, leaves a bit to be desired.

(Time passes)

Okay, no delayed bloom here. The taste up front is the taste you get. And that is a good front-end sip with a savory middle and a letdown finish.

I shouldn’t have had my expectations so high.

Now I’m really craving something like a Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball.

Flensburger Pilsener

Posted by on 21 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

I’m a solid fan of American craft beers.

Having said that, I also have to admit that the Germans know their beer, and it probably has to do with exacting measurements, repeatability, and all the things that made Germans good rocket scientists.

I’m cheating here because I took a sip before I started writing this review. I already know this brew is good.

Something must be wrong with my nose because I sniffed, snorted, and snarfled the top of this cute little bottle without any reward of scent. Having done my research, I know other reviewers smell good things from the top of this bottle. Unfortunately I’m not getting it, so it must be me.

Color, head, lacing, blah blah blah … I don’t do all that stuff. Let’s go right for the throat. I take a big, healthy swig.

The first thing that strikes me about this pilsner is that it’s spicy. There’s a peppery flavor mixed with green hops over a solid grainy malt base. The aftertaste fades to a sharp bitterness that over time is a bit off balance. To ward it off, take another swig.

Crafty Germans. They formulated it that way to keep you drinking.

That’s my theory, anyway.

Not a Holy Beer, but very good, and definitely good for a pilsner. I don’t have a problem proclaiming this as a Groovy Brew.

Flensburger Gold

Posted by on 18 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

Gold! So, from what I read on the Internet, “gold” is the code word for “lite beer” in Germany. This is reportedly a German version of a “lite” beer.

(May all “lite” beers rot in Hell.)

I am not expecting much. Being that I don’t expect to like it, I’m glad it is a tiny little 11.2 ounce bottle.

Then again, if anyone can pull off a “lite” beer it would be the Germans. So, who knows? I’m about to find out for myself.

Popping the top I smell … absolutely nothing. There is no scent. I can smell the glass of the bottle itself more than I smell anything resembling that of beer.

Here goes nothing. I raise the thick brown glass to my lips. Tip it back.

The flavor is light and a bit sweet. The aftertaste is very sweet. The beer taste itself is so delicate it’s hard to pin down. I’m not talking absent like in Coors, but … delicate. Shy.

It tastes a bit like grass. Lawn grass. Lawn grass with honey.

So help me, it’s not unpleasant. I am actually enjoying it. The more I drink, the stronger the flavor. This is a delayed bloom beer.

I actually like it.

But, lawn grass? What is this? Beer for cows?

No, the grass taste must be the hops, and the hoppiness is growing as I near the end of the tiny bottle. As the hoppiness grows the honey sweetness fades.

Okay, they pulled it off. This beer is good. Not Holy Beer good, not “Hey guys let’s go buy a case of this and party!” good, but good enough to not turn down if someone hands it to you.

In other words, it’s good but not groovy. And it does not taste like a “lite” beer.

Flensburger Weizen

Posted by on 15 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

My good friends over at my local Beer Heaven provided me with four — count them, four — bottles of Flensburger to try.

So thus starts a quadrilogy of reviews. It’s like taking a little trip to Germany.

The bottles are cute little 12 ouncers with a resealable stopper, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense beyond a marketing standpoint. Twelve ounces is … what? Four gulps? Who’s going to take two gulps, reseal it, and put it back in the fridge?

As a general rule, I’m against a bottle holding anything less than 16 ounces … unless the beer is horrible.

But if the beer is horrible, then…

I don’t know where I’m going with this. Anyway. Moving along.

I pop the top, take that required sniff. It’s very yeasty. In fact I can’t smell anything else. At all.

Raising it to my lips, I take a swing from the thick brown glass and am rewarded with a sweet yeasty taste. It tastes like bread. Very much like bread.

Good bread.

It makes sense since this is a wheat beer. As the tasting continues the yeastiness fades, leaving the sweet bready wheat laced with light golden hops, and a very slight bitterness, well balanced, which brings this together as a impressive little package.

Emphasis on little.

The beer is already gone.

I daresay this is the best wheat beer I’ve ever tasted, and in so, I’m going to designate it a Holy Beer contender, delicious enough to make it but not enough to rate too high. I’ll give it a 2.4.

Phuket Lager

Posted by on 12 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

My love and I were at a Thai restaurant when we discovered this beer. A joke beer, obviously. But after we had our giggle, I had to admit my curiosity was piqued.

Phuket, I thought. I’ll try it.

As it says on the label, it’s “The original island beer.” What island? I had no idea. All I knew is that it was from Thailand.

Phuket, I thought. I’ll look it up on the Internet later.

We got it home, took a picture of it, and I popped it open. It’s going to be horrible, I thought. Like Coors flavored with rusty nails, or Budweiser with frog juice in it.

My ceremonial sniffing of the bottle was more out of fear than pretentiousness. The scent turned out to be a tad yeasty and was brimming with hops. Not bad, really. Pleasant even. Totally the opposite of what I was expecting.

Phuket, I thought. Here goes nothing. I put the bottle to my lips and tipped it back.

I have never been to Thailand. I didn’t know there is a coastal island called Phuket, nor did I know it’s a tropical paradise. Thanks to this beer, I know a lot about it now, and in fact it just may end up being where my love and I eventually spend our honeymoon.

This beer is really tasty. It’s flavorful without being aggressive, giving you a laid back island version of a good German lager, with energetic hops riding over a warm golden sweet maltiness. The aftertaste settles like a tropical sunset. As with many beers, it left me mourning the fact that I’d only picked up one.

Next time I see it, you can bet I’m going to say, “Phuket! I’m getting a whole six pack!”

St. Bernardus Prior 8

Posted by on 09 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

I wish more beers and ales came in bottles sealed with a champagne cork. It’s classier than a twist-off yet an opener is not required.

I also wish all brews came in such big bottles. Though with 8% alcohol, I’m going to be well lit by the time I’m done. After a full day of drinking coffee, though, I need the alcohol to wind down.

Yes, tonight I’m saying hello and “down the hatch” to a St. Bernardus Prior 8 Belgian Abbey Ale. Strictly by definition this is already a Holy beer, as it’s brewed (supposedly) by those wily Belgian monks.

That does not, however, automatically qualify it for the list.

I pop the cork. There’s a low key yeasty scent from the bottle. Hard to detect anything beyond the yeast, in fact.

First sip is energetically carbonated, and the fizz is all you get for the first several seconds. Only after it calms do you get a wave of sharp hops, the strong tang of alcohol, followed by a rush of nutty dark malt. The malt seems marred by something, a kind of wood taste, like falling down in on a forest trail and coming up with a mouth full of bark.

Hmm. I have to sit here and savor this for a bit.

It’s drinkable, but the aftertaste is a bit harsh. Probably the alcohol. I’m willing to bet this is one of those brews that takes a while to blossom. One of those “you only get out of it what you put into it” ales that you have to work through to appreciate.

I’m working through it now. Only a third the way through the bottle and I can feel the alcohol.

After finishing the bottle, all I can really say is, “Weeeeeeeee…” I feel good. But unfortunately I’m not overly impressed with the ale itself, and … sorry St. Bernadus, but you’re not making the Holy Beer contender list. The aftertaste never did lose its harsh quality and it did not leave me wanting another. The taste did not blossom.

To be fair, I’m finding that I’m not partial to Dubbel style ales, so those who are may enjoy this one. Personally, though, to me it’s not a very groovy brew.

Wells Banana Bread Beer

Posted by on 06 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

Bread and beer are kissing-cousins, so it kind of makes sense to have something like a “Banana Bread” beer.

I mean, I saw it at my local Beer Heaven and had to pick it up. I mean, I just had to. I love beer. I love banana bread. It seemed a winning combination.

Later, after getting it home, I began to come to my senses. Banana beer? Oh come on. What was I thinking?

An even better question, what in the world are they smoking over at the Charles Wells brewery in England?

Bananas? Beer?

My friend over at Kegs and Barrels told me there’s no actual bananas in the brew, but he missed something on the back label. It says it right there. The “banana character” comes from English Crystal malt being crushed rather than ground, and then the flavor is enhanced by adding Fair Trade bananas.

Bananas in the beer.

So, here goes nothing. I’m popping the top right now. Taking that obligatory, pretentious sniff.

Low and behold, what do I smell? Banana bread. I kid you not, that’s exactly what it smells like.

I just IM’ed a very close friend of mine from England about it, who commented: “Oh please! Is it as dreadful as it sounds? To start off with, banana bread is SO American. Well? How is it?”

I take a drink.

“It really does taste like banana bread,” I reply. “It’s good!”

It is, too, even though if you think about it too hard it should be considered an abomination. You can taste the obviously beery notes around the banana bread flavor, and this is a genuine high quality English ale — not one of those flavored “malt beverages” — I have to congratulate Charles Wells for doing an amazing job in blending it all naturally together so that it actually tastes like the bread. The carbonation is very light, the body is heavy, and the brew itself very rich, with an alcohol content of 5.2%. The aftertaste is definitely on the chocolate malt side, warm and pleasant.

For you beer advocates out there who are curious about the “mouth feel” I can assure you it’s much smoother than bread.

To sum it up, if you like beer, and if you’re “SO American” that you enjoy banana bread, you will like this ale.

It’s not a Holy Beer contender, but it definitely gets high marks for originality.

Lowenbrau Original

Posted by on 03 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

Imported from Munich, Germany, this is not the Lowenbrau from my youth.

For the longest time I didn’t even like Lowenbrau — I was a beer snob even in my teen years — but being that my friends were always buying it by the case — and we’re talking case after case after case … in a single weekend … and we would all be drinking it on the Santa Cruz beach, amid the sand and the surf, the wind and the waves, surrounded by flocks of tanned California girls with their tiny little bikinis … it sort of grew on me.

We’re talking the fake Lowenbrau, brewed in America by Miller.

After 2002 Lowenbrau switched back to an imported beer, but that was long after I’d moved on to other favorites. So I have not actually tasted an imported Lowenbrau, at least not that I can remember. Which means, not anytime within this millennium.

To get into the spirit, I’m listening to something I used to listen to way back when. The Clash. Yes, perfect. “Rudy Can’t Fail!”

It’s Lowenbrau drinking music.

I pop the top, and take a sniff. (Again, why do we do this? Is it not pretentious? Why don’t we also lick the bottle, or chew on the label? Mmm… quality condensation, mixing with the exuberantly bitter twang of gold-foiled paper and imported glue…)

You know what, my friend? It smells like beer! In fact, it smells exactly like Lowenbrau.


I tip it up, lips to glass, toss some back.

Um. Um… Well. Here’s a “Duh” moment. Germans really know how to brew beer.

It’s delicious, much better than my memories of the fake “Lowie” (as we used to call it). Light carbonation, medium body just bursting with a rich maltiness that hints of brown sugar, but the sweetness muted by a perfectly balanced hoppy bitterness.

Oh yeah, and the memories come flooding back. Bear with me my friends, I’m about to quote myself — something I actually wrote while drunk on Lowenbrau in the 1980’s:

Windswept beaches in sweet sunlight
The happy sounds of waves and laughter
Lowenbrau in my hand, buzz in my head
I am complete.

That summed up Lowenbrau back then, and sums it up now, but now Lowenbrau is even better.

Anyone feel like going on a road trip?

Tongue’s Eye View

Posted by on 02 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Places

Look. Fun with a phone camera…

…when you’ve been drinking too much.