March 2008

Monthly Archive

Karhu III

Posted by on 26 Mar 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

image There comes a point when you’re in another country where you cross the line from tourist to visitor.

For the last week I’ve been in full tourist mode, snapping pictures of everything, but today the newness wore off and I’ve found myself used to new brands and previously unfamiliar speech.  No, I have not spontaneously learned Finnish, but I am now used to the fact that the entire bathroom is in fact a shower, the electrical sockets look huge and bizarre, and the light switches appear to have come from the set of the original Star Trek series.

I’ve explored my neighborhood, know where all the restaurants and markets are, and have dealt with the disappointment of the American dollar being worth about only half a Euro.

So now here I sit in my hotel room in Helsinki about to open this completely unknown beer.  I’m assuming from the textured black of the can that it’s a dark beer.  It looks strong — the label features, after all, the head of an angry looking bear.  And judging by the sheer amount of these on the shelves, this beer must be popular here.  Looking at the label and the web site,, it looks to be a locally brewed beer.

Popping the top, it smells yeasty.  Other than that, I get a hint of hops.  That’s it.

I pour a bit into a glass to get a look at it.  It’s not dark, but it’s not pale either.  This beer is a beautiful rich deep amber.

It’s a little after midnight, and down on the streets drunken Fins are shouting and making loud hooting noises.  Against this backdrop, I tip the can against my lips and take a long sip.

Not bad.  The taste is subtle.  It’s mild but pleasing, with an oatmeal quality and sharp hoppy overtones.  Nothing to write home about (even though that’s exactly what I’m doing right now) but it’s drinkable.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to import it.

It’s okay, and … well, for a common beer, somewhat groovy.

The funny thing is, they actually import Budweiser here.  It doesn’t have a strong presence but it’s there on the shelves, big cans of it.  No one here I’ve talked to likes it, so who knows who they’re stocking for?  Expatriate Americans, maybe?  What a laugh.

This common Kahhu III kicks Budweiser buttocks all the way to the states and back. 

Of course, I could say the same about stale soda water.

Three Beers in Espoo

Posted by on 23 Mar 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews


Midway through my business trip to Finland, my colleague and new friend Tapio graciously invited me to have dinner with him and his family in Espoo, and for the event he secured for us a number of beers to try — only half of which we made it through.

There was actually a forth beer, but I forgot to take a picture of it.

Oops.  Oh well…

Of course, being this was an informal and absolutely enjoyable dinner, I didn’t sit there and scribble notes about the beers.  All three (actually if you include the forgotten beer, all four) of them were excellent.  So without any real details, I hereby give my groovy regards to Litovel Dark, Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel, and Bath Ales Dark Hare.

And many, many thanks to Tapio and his family for having me at their wonderful home!  Kiitos!

Leffe Brown

Posted by on 18 Mar 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!, Holy Beer Contenders

leffegbb For a long while I had been looking forward to sampling some beer during my layover in Germany, and imagine my sadness to discover (through lack of understanding of proper time-zone math) that I arrived there at 6:00 AM Frankfurt time, and there was not a drop of beer to be had. 

At least not at the airport, and I wasn’t about to leave the airport.

So with Germany a bust, I continued on my trip, arriving here in Finland, and had dinner at a little place in Hyvinkää called Hemingway’s (yes, named after Poppa Hemingway).  After ordering some smoked salmon I asked the waitress what beers she had, and not being able to understand her very well, I just told her to bring me something "dark."

Leffe Brown is what she brought, and oh my, am I happy she did.

This Belgian monk-brewed beer has a surprisingly light body, with a toasty caramel malt flavor and a nice hoppy aftertaste.  It’s perfectly balanced and absolutely delicious.  If I had to criticize something, my only nitpick is that it might be just a touch too sweet.  But as you loyal readers know, I have a sweet tooth.

I give this a very respectable 6.7 on the Holy Grail Scale, and hereby proclaim it groovy.

Amen, brothers!

Dear Samuel Adams…

Posted by on 17 Mar 2008 | Tagged as: Beer People

Samuel Adams hat!
…thanks for the hat!

Lagunitas Lumpy Gravy

Posted by on 14 Mar 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!, Holy Beer Contenders

image Sorry to all the other breweries out there, some of which are very cool, but these guys have you beat. The GroovyBrew Ultimately Cool Brewery Award goes to Lagunitas of Petaluma, California.

Case in point, this Lumpy Gravy seasonal brew, a one time shot get-them-while-you-can beer that has been brewed to honor the 40th anniversary of one of Frank Zappa’s most incredible albums.

I pop the top of this 22 oz. bottle, sniff some warm, strong, and sweet dark malt scents, and tip it up to my lips and immediately gulp down at least 11 oz. without a breath. It took me by surprise. My lips locked around that bottle, my arm and fingers froze, and my tongue commanded the body to suck this sweet nectar down. It was anarchy. The brain was no longer in control.

Indeed, you could even put forth it was the beer that was in control.

It’s a rather hot and humid Friday night here in McKinney, Texas. I have my bedroom window open and the box fan is desperately trying to coax slightly cooler air in from outside. I’m sweating all over my tee shirt. Hard to believe that just last week it snowed not once, but twice, right here — shutting the city down.

In two days I’ll be in Frankfurt sucking down some German brew during a 4 hour layover. In fact my open suitcase is here on my bed, ready to be filled. I am not filling it, however … I’m sitting here drinking this wonderful beer.

It’s dark, sweet, very malty, with a prancing hops aftertaste that takes over about 37 seconds after the malt fades. Alcohol content is respectably high. Much like a Zappa melody, there’s not a sour note in the batch, but it is all over the place as far as experience. The taste zooms, zings, and buzzes like Frank’s guitar.

Is this beer a fitting tribute to Zappa? Hell yes. It is also a Holy Beer Contender, and as stated above, this rings the alarm for the Gulp Alert.

Thank you Lagunitas. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Avery Mephistopheles’ Stout

Posted by on 09 Mar 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

The Boogieman is in this bottle!

Here’s the brew to drink when you want the excuse, “The devil made me do it!” Being that it’s 16% alcohol, you won’t really be lying. Especially if you’ve had six of them.

Officer: “Have you been drinking, son?”

Mephistopheles Drinker: “It was Satan, I tell you! Satan!”

I’m drinking this one tonight by special request. My old friend Michelle emailed me, saying, “Tried this one yesterday and wanted to suggest it: Avery Mephistopheles Stout. Really, really good!”

This girl knows her beers. I am giving it a try.

Popping the top, I give it the old sniff routine. Don’t even have to put it near my face, I can smell it from where it sits on the table. The scent of sweet dark malt drifts out, slithers around, caressing my olfactory pleasure center. A deeper whiff tells the story of strong hops buried like treasure in the darkness.

I can also smell that alcohol, giving a vodka edge to the scent.

Okay, enough sniffing. Time to raise it to my lips.

My mouth is watering in anticipation.

Okay, my initial reaction is “Wow.” That is a good sign. The taste is a multi-dimensional bomb that goes off in slow motion, the fire running through every color in the beer spectrum: Sweet, tart, hoppy, vodka-alcohol, brown malt, bitter, and more hoppiness. The initial aftertaste is a sharp bitterness that quickly fades to a dull balanced malty bitterness that lingers a long while.

Each successive sip runs through the same explosion.

Halfway through the 12 oz. bottle, I am already feeling a buzz.

Four-fifths the way through the bottle, my palate is too numb to experience the flavor bomb. It’s faded to slightly sweet, alcohol-soaked dark malt. Heck, even the bitterness is subdued.

My tongue is drunk. I daresay I’m not too far behind. I definitely wouldn’t go driving a car right now. This bottle is the equivalent of drinking four our five regular beers at the same time. If you’re talking about 3.2 beer (though, really, anyone reading this website wouldn’t be touching that crap) it’s like an entire 6-pack in one bottle.

Officer: “Son, are you sure you’ve only had one beer?”

Mephistopheles Drinker: (Vomits on Officer’s shoes)

Okay, I’ve finished the last slip. The predominate taste is sweet. It like beer candy. I give a healthy belch and feel the burn of alcohol fumes.

My god, how disgusting. Well.

The devil made me do it!

[As blasphemous as it sounds, I’m proclaiming this demon brew as a Holy Beer Contender, and rating it at a respectable 6.4 on the Holy Grail Scale.]

Samuel Adams Double Bock

Posted by on 03 Mar 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!, Holy Beer Contenders

image This beer … not only is it a Kegs & Barrels Brew of the Week, and not only do I find myself giving it an outrageously high 8.8 on the Holy Grail Scale, but I’m also having to issue a Gulp Alert on it.

This is tied as the second highest rated beer on Groovy Brew to date, right next to the Chicken Killer Barley Wine and behind the newly upgraded Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale.

Apparently Samuel Adams, The Boston Beer Company, decided they wanted to come out with something that totally kicks the ass of other American beers, while still being within the price range of your average beer lover.

If you love a dark, rich, sweet, chocolaty malty nirvana of a brew, this one’s for you.  Sam Adams used Bavarian hops and four times the malt of other beers, stacking the deck with this one, giving a wham, bam, and thank you Sam taste that gives me shivers of pleasure all the way down to my toes.

I am so glad that I bought a six pack of this, instead of a single bottle.

GROOVY x 6 = 1 very happy beer lover.