November 2007

Monthly Archive

Holy Beer Roundup

Posted by on 25 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Holy Beer Contenders

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve taken a break from reviewing. It involves a long business trip and catching a bug. While I’m home now, I’m still not well, and my sense of taste is thoroughly misaligned.

While I take this break to recuperate, I thought I should at least put up a retrospective of where I’ve traveled so far in my search for the Holy Beer.  And so, I hereby present to you a complete list of the Holy Grail Contenders, ordered by how high they scored:

  1. St. Sebastiaan Dark – 8.4
  2. Hairy Eyeball Ale – 8.2
  3. Eye of the Hawk Ale – 8.1
  4. Horn Dog Barley Wine – 8.1
  5. Maximus India Pale Ale – 8.1
  6. Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen – 7.7
  7. Samuel Adams Old Ale – 6.5
  8. Mackeson Triple Stout – 6.3
  9. Westmalle Tripel Trappist Ale – 6.3
  10. Saint Arnold Oktoberfest – 6.1
  11. Barbar Blonde – 6.0
  12. Full Sail Amber – 5.7
  13. Samuel Adams OctoberFest – 5.5
  14. Black Hawk Stout – 5.4
  15. Arrogant Bastard Ale – 5.3
  16. Morimoto Soba Ale – 5.2
  17. Millstream Schild Brau Amber – 5.0
  18. Old Speckled Hen – 4.8
  19. Flying Dog Dogtoberfest – 4.7
  20. Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale – 4.7
  21. Samuel Adams Hefeweizen – 4.7
  22. PranQster Belgian Style Golden Ale – 4.3
  23. Samuel Adams Boston Lager – 4.0
  24. Flensburger Weizen – 2.4

While the St. Sebastiaan Dark is listed as the top brew, my memories of the Hairy Eyeball are the strongest.

I think we’re going to have to have a rematch when the Hairy Eyeball comes back out.

I can’t wait!

Eye of the Hawk Ale

Posted by on 14 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!, Holy Beer Contenders

It’s the Eye of the Hawk.

The EYE … of the HAWK!

It can see … anything. It can see what beer you’re drinking … from 2000 feet away!

It’s the freaking eye of the freaking hawk, man!

Hide! Now!

Don’t worry about this one, I just pulled it out of my refrigerator. It may be the eye of the hawk, but it’s chilled. It’s under control.

I hope.

What exactly would an ale have to do with a hawk’s eye? What, is it supposed to make you see better? Does it give you the uncontrollable urge to pounce on field mice and eat their gizzards?

We’ll see. I’m about to pop this baby open.

On the label it says, “Rich, robust and complex, with a ton of flavor. Legendary in California since 1984, the Eye has won many medals. Brewed traditionally, it is a favorite at the Great British Beer Festival. Only the finest premium malts and whole hops are used. Let your spirit soar.”

Raising the bottle to my nose, I take that first sniff. Well, it does smell good! Rich malt and snappy hops, to be sure. But how does it taste? And … will it enable me to fly?

Gulp Alert! Gulp Alert!

Okay, seriously, half the bottle disappeared just then. I typed, then had to delete, an expletive of surprise and delight. I’m still trying to decode the taste.

It starts off tangy and a bit sweet. The malts rise like a joyous fountain, an upwelling splashing bubbling geyser of goodness. Golden and toasty, they give a wheatish, bready flavor laced with walnut or maybe pecan. It goes down silky smooth and finishes like a happy song, leaving you wanting more.

I am not flying. I can’t see any better. I have no desire to pounce on any mice and carry it off in my talons.

But my spirit is, in fact, soaring. Eye of the Hawk is not only groovy, it’s a Holy Beer Contender. I hereby bestow upon it an 8.1 on the Holy Grail Scale.

Coal Porter

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

Atlantic Brewing Company somehow came up with the coolest name I’ve ever heard for a beer. Coal Porter. It’s one of those, “Man, why didn’t I think of that” names.

This strong, aggressive porter smells of dark roasted malt and honey, and tastes like straight black coffee. The first thing that hits is a dark roasted malt, then coffee, and then walnut, making a triple play that’s demanding in its bitterness. This brew trades smoothness for a serious edge; an edge that’s like sharp notes played from a master-crafted cello.

Not holy, but very groovy.

Oh, by the way, it’s my birthday today.

Jasperilla Old Ale

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

What is it about dogs on beer labels?

And why is it that I usually like a beer if there’s a dog on the label?

That’s just weird.

I was thinking about that when I picked this up at my Local Beer Heaven, and I didn’t even notice this is a Texan beer. The last beer I reviewed, which also had a dog on the label, was another local.

Speaking of weird, this beer smells weird. It has a sour sweet scent to it, yeasty, all mixed in with an otherwise pleasantly dark malty aroma.

Will this be the beer with a dog on the label that I don’t like? We’ll see. I raise it up to my lips with just a hint of dread. I’m expecting something … icky.

Nope! Not icky! Very different but not icky. I can see why Kegs & Barrels is selling a lot of this stuff. I was lucky to get a bottle.

MMM, mmmMMMmmm, that’s good! What the heck is in this brew? Must go to the Independence Brewing Company website and find out…

For one thing, it’s named after the brewery’s mascot, a dog named Jasper. The website also says: “Brilliantly golden, Jasperilla is a unique take on an old ale. It has a complex yet subtle aroma – a blend of hops, citrus, and biscuity notes. Just the right amount of hops balances the mild maltiness and alcohol flavors.”

I have to agree. “Biscuity” is a good word to pin down that unique flavor I’m experiencing. The beer starts out sweet and as you make your way through the bottle it gives way to a increasingly aggressive bitterness that is at once sharp and yet pleasant. The citrus notes grow over time as well. Present at all times is a kind of bready, “biscuity” maltiness that keeps you in the here and now.

This beer demands your attention. It is most definitely a center stage beer.

And while, for some odd subjective reason I can’t even explain, it doesn’t make it as a Holy Beer contender, even though it is, without a doubt, a groovy brew.

Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug Black Lager

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

These are my local guys. Really local. Rahr & Sons is in Fort Worth, about an hour’s drive from McKinney. One of these days I’m going to have to visit the brewery.

Like one of my all-time favorite beers, this features a ugly dog on the label. The story behind the dog can also be found there: “Fritz saw his mother-in-law’s pug, Oscar, lounging in a chair and he (Fritz) shouted, ‘What an ugly pug!’ Everyone laughed. You’re right – they were drinking a test batch that night.”

So I put this Ugly Pug up to my nose and give it a good whiff. It smells strongly of dark chocolaty malt and brown sugar. It brings to mind chocolate cake batter with beer in it.

Taking my first swig, the first thought in my mind, the first word, is decent. Good. Drinkable. Not outstanding or eye-bulgingly wonderful, but definitely well crafted and enjoyable. The carbonation is a bit too enthusiastic, and the malt tastes a little on the burnt side, and there’s a slightly unpleasant taint of yeast.

It’s good. Really. If it wasn’t for those three little nitpicks, it would be groovy.

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen

Posted by on 02 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!, Holy Beer Contenders

It’s actually Halloween as I write this. I’m hiding from kids in a dark apartment, hoping they don’t come around for candy — I have none.

Boo! Hiss! Bad beer blogger. I know.

My kids are all dressed up and out in a neighborhood of big houses getting their candy fix. Me, I just want to be left alone. Just me, a beer, and a really good book.

This beer, my last Oktoberfest of the season, I actually meant to review last week. You know, so it would appear in October? Yeah. It just didn’t happen.

So anyway, it’s my beer for tonight, and I pop it open, not really expecting that much.


Oh my God it smells good! Dusky malt with butterscotch tendrils. Hops buried like zesty treasure. Wow. I haven’t sniffed a beer with this elegant a bouquet for quite some time.

I take that first sip…

Warning! Warning! Gulp Alert!

This beer is hard to sip. My taste-triggered reflex is to guzzle it down. Velvety smooth, buttery sweet, perfectly carbonated, Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen is the perfect beer to make you forget your troubles. It’s perfect for cuddling up with a warm blanket and a good book.

And, um, hiding from trick-or-treaters.

The taste is that of caramel malt infused in a mildly spicy breadiness, fading to zinging floral hops. It rides a tightrope balance of sweet and bitter.

Awesome. Groovy. All the way to the bottom.

I have no problem scoring this with a very high 7.7 on the Holy Grail Scale.