Beer Reviews

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Schell’s Dark

Posted by on 18 Sep 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

This promising looking beer hails from New Ulm, Minnesota. I like the look of the bottle, and the brew inside is a gorgeous light mahogany. I pop the top with a happy sense of anticipation.

Raising it up, I take a sniff. There’s a weak scent of barley, and the ghost of hops. Not much else. I take it as a bad omen, but shrug it off — I’ve been pleasantly fooled before.

Raising it to my lips, I take that first sip. I am rewarded with a very weak taste. Watery. Slightly bitter.

No body.

Let’s not waste any more time on this one. It’s not repulsive but there is really nothing there. The expression that comes firmly to mind is, “Bleh.”

This beer is not groovy. Not in the least.

Barons Black Wattle Superior

Posted by on 14 Sep 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

I have before me a bottle of Barons “Black Wattle Seed Superior” Wattle Seed Ale imported from — where else? — Australia.

I know nothing about wattle seeds save this little bit from a Monty Python sketch:

This is a wattle
The emblem of our land
You can stick it in a bottle
You can hold it in your hand

Apparently Aussie’s think it belongs in beer. We’ll see…

I pop the top and immediately note a distinctive bouquet.  It makes my nose itch, and smells less like beer and more like bread baked with weeds in it.

The first sip is delicious.  It’s a very complex flavor riding atop a solid foundation of toasted malt.  Maple notes mingle with molasses and biscuit.  The hops remain subdued until halfway through the bottle, where they suddenly emerge tasting a bit green.  Still, the hops never overpower the toasted malt, and I find this a pleasurable drinking experience even down to the very last drop in the bottle.

Would I drink it again?  Yes.

Would I want to drink one after another?  No.

It’s very good but it doesn’t leave me craving more.  And while I have no problem proclaiming it to be a groovy brew, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a contender for the Holy Beer.

Hurricane High Gravity Lager

Posted by on 24 Aug 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

Stop the press!

A friend of mine, thinking he was buying one of my favorite beers, brought over a 24 ounce can of Hurricane High Gravity Lager. Well, no, I’d never had this before. What he thought he was buying was 211 High Gravity Steel Reserve — but this is something else, and I looked at it with suspicion. Where, I wondered, did this come? Who brewed it?

My heart fell. On the side of the can I found these heinous words: “Brewed and canned by Anheuser-Busch, Inc.” Oh great, I thought. High gravity Budweiser.


So I popped the top, scrunched up my nose, and took a sip. It was a gift, after all. Didn’t want to be rude.

Again, here is where I say: “Stop the press!”

This is quite an occasion. It’s a date to circle on the calendar. I have finally found something brewed by Anheuser-Busch that I actually like.

There is no tang of industrial machinery. There is no sickening aftertaste. There is actual, decent – I can even say appealing – flavor. My friends I am in shock.

This beer is not bad at all.

Now I’m not going to go so far as say that it’s wonderful, but I can’t condemn it, and I will say that I would gladly drink it again.

Anheuser-Busch, don’t get used to this, but I hereby proclaim your Hurricane High Gravity Lager as a groovy brew.

Now I wince as I publish this, as I’m sure it’s going to shred my credibility to pieces. But I have to be honest. I give credit where credit is due. I enjoyed this beer. And it went very well with a rack of smoked ribs.

Left Hand Widdershins Barleywine

Posted by on 12 Jun 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

image I smell dark roasted barley, and oak.

I taste bittersweet hops well balanced with a golden roasted barley.  I taste the oak, too, and I’m not really sure if it adds anything.  Maybe a distant whiskey note, very subtle, and not actually necessary — as in, it doesn’t seem to add to the flavor.  To me the flavor actually takes a hit because of it.


I mean, it’s still groovy.  As in, that’s how it tastes.

Um.  But not quite Holy.  It doesn’t make the scale.

I shouldn’t write these things after drinking so many of them.  But you know, there’s nothing like a big, cold, strong ale when you’re stressed.  It’s good medicine for the soul.  Much better than those uber annoying Chicken Soup books that make you boo hoo and sends the snot running out your nose.

How does that help, really?

Now beer, or in this case, ale, it makes you feel good, it relaxes you, it fills your body with antioxidants and boosts your levels of vitamin B6.  As long as you don’t suffer from gout and you’re not behind a wheel, it’s a good thing.

I’ve got to go finish this big old bottle in a quiet place.  And, um, contemplate existence or something.

Peace out. 

Dogfish Head Immort Ale

Posted by on 05 Jun 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

image Immort Ale.  Imortale.  Imortal.  Get it? 

N’yuk n’yuk! 

Hello?  Hello, is this microphone on

Wow, you’re a tough crowd.  Maybe Dogfish Head should just stick to beer.

Moving right along, I pop the top of this little brown bottle and take that obligatory sniff.  It smells like sugar infused malt and hops.  It smells good.  It’s making my mouth water.

I put the bottle to my lips and tip it up.  It tastes sweet, thick, malty — like Malt-o-Meal malty — it’s fairly smooth but, not beautiful-woman-backside smooth.  Just smooth.  Smooth and hoppy, with nice tangy citrus overtones.  It leaves with a lip-smacking maple finish.

It’s too sweet to be Holy.  But, it’s plenty sweet enough to be groovy, and with 11% alcohol, it’s strong enough too.

It’s also gone already.

Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch Ale

Posted by on 01 Jun 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

image“Handcrafted Ancient Ale, with barley, honey, white Muscat grapes and saffron.”

Dogfish Head claims to have recreated the earliest known fermented beverage in the world, crafted from evidence found in none other than the tomb of King Midas.

This may be the Holy Beer.

I have to admit, I’m rather excited, and just a little nervous.  What if I do find the Holy Beer?  Does that mean I’m done?  This website gets shut down?


We’ll see.  I pop the top.  Take a sniff.

Oh, man, the roast barley smells wonderful.  There’s an undercurrent of saffron and just a hint of grapes.  Very interesting, and it has my mouth watering.  So, without further ado, I put the bottle to my lips and tip her back.

Okay, it’s … weird.  Like a beer/wine cocktail.   Not bad, not fantastic.  Can’t tell yet if it’s Holy.  I have to sip this nectar and ponder the meaning of life for a bit.

Halfway through the bottle, and I have this odd feeling that my breath is flammable.  It’s not that high an alcohol content, though — a respectable 9% but still, that’s not enough to flame my lips, though for some reason it feels like I could.

The tastes are subtle and delicious.  This isn’t one of those over-the-top bang-on-the-head fantastic brews, but it’s fantastic in its own quiet way.  The honey sweetness is a perfect counterpoint to the barley and saffron.  There’s a bready, biscuity undertone that is quite pleasant.

This may not be the Holy Beer, but it’s definitely a contender.  I’ll rate it a… um…

Wait.  Hold on.  Is this really a beer?  I mean, the more I sip, the more it tastes like I’m drinking Champagne.  But they’re calling it an ale.

A quandary!  I seriously don’t know what to make of it.  Indecision has cost it some points.  I hereby bestow upon it a respectable 6.7 on the Holy Grail Scale, and proclaim it to be groovy.

And now pardon me while I go look in a mirror to make sure my tongue hasn’t turned to gold.

“Fifteen” (Avery Anniversary Ale)

Posted by on 29 May 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

image “Ale brewed with spices, herbs, and figs.” Figs? What?

Also from the label: “A refreshingly tart, fruity, funky farmhouse ale brewed with black mission figs, hibiscus flowers and white pepper.”

After reading that, I can only think it’s going to be outrageously good, or a complete disaster. And being that I was totally disappointed by the last Avery brew I sampled, my hopes for this one are shaky at best.

The top is already popped (I goofed and popped it even before I took the picture) but I haven’t given it a sniff yet. As I do, I smell the white pepper. If nothing else, this would make some really good steak marinade.

Well, here goes nothing.

I raise it to my lips, tip the bottom of the big brown bottle upwards. Foaming liquid gurgles into my beer hole.

Immediate first impression: it’s a disaster. Not much actual beer flavor reaches my palate — instead it’s a cacophony that is mainly overshadowed by the pepper, but as it lingers on my tongue I pick up the residual mix flavors that, unfortunately, begins to remind me of vomit.

I really hesitate to put more of this stuff into my mouth.

Bravely I take another swig, and — alas — am even more reminded of the taste of barf. This stuff is nasty, pukey, and disgusting.

Five perfectly awful swigs later I give up.

I dump it into the toilet where it belongs. And pray that it doesn’t make the toilet hurl.

NOT GROOVY. Not at all.

Theakston Old Peculier

Posted by on 22 May 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

imageThis comes from an English brewery that’s been in operation since 1827. I have no idea what “peculier” means … when I picked it up at Kegs And Barrels (my local beer heaven) I thought it said peculiar.

As in odd. Non-conforming. Rogue.

Something which I could stand behind.

But here, now, after popping the top, I smell a brew that is saccharine sweet and hints of dark roasted malts. Nothing really peculiar about it at all. Strangely enough, I’m disappointed.

Let’s see if that disappointment carries into the flavor. Raising it to my lips, I take a nice long sip.

It gurgles into my moth. There is no gulp alert sounding. Pleasant, light, the dark maltiness is subdued and fades quickly to make room for a sharp spike of hops. It’s almost a photo-flash, and then it too fades. The taste drains away and leaves only the hint of bitterness lingering on the palate, an echo of walnut maybe. Or that taste you get when you’re really drunk and you lick a piece of wood.

Come on, admit it. You’ve done that too. Right?


Moving right along…

I have to report that there is nothing peculiar about this beer at all. Nothing spectacular, either. It’s a good beer but — damn it — I have been really spoiled as of late. I find this beer uninspiring and definitely not a Holy Beer contender.

I hesitate to even call it groovy. Its simply … acceptable. I’m not going to pour it down the sink, but I’m definitely not picking it up at the store ever again.

Karma Ale

Posted by on 17 May 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

imageAvery Brewery presents bottled Karma.  Or so they say.

As it says on the bottle, "We believe in Karma. We suspect most of you do, too.  It truly is a global concept. Very simply put, ‘you get what you give.’  Inspired by this principal and the wonderful farmhouse and pale ales of Belgium, we’ve created Karma Ale, a decidedly fruity and estery ale…" etc.

What does Belgium have to do with Karma?  Is it a heavily Buddhist country?  Seriously, I have no idea.  I flew over a small corner of it a few months ago, but that’s as close as I’ve been.

Anyway.  Moving right along.  Let me pop the top off this karmic wonder and see if it makes me levitate or glow.

Sniffing, I don’t smell much.  A faint whiff of malt.  That’s about it.

Unimpressive first taste.  A kind of stronger brother to Michelob but without that Anheuser-Busch industrial tang.  Too much carbonation, a kind of muted, stale malt flavor followed by wilted hops.

Bleh.  Not impressed.  Half a bottle down and I’m still thinking this is a loser.  I’m not even picking up a hint of the fruitiness that the label promised.

Perhaps it was mislabeled?  Maybe instead of being called ‘Karma,’ it was supposed to be called Bad Karma?

Whatever.  I proclaim it to be NOT groovy and give it a little kick to the side.  I’ve got myself one last Lagunitas Gnarly Wine and I’m going to pop that baby open enjoy some real and true good karma.

That stuff does make me glow.

Old Chub Scottish Style Ale

Posted by on 15 May 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

imageIt comes in a can.  At least, I didn’t see it in a bottle.  And even without reading the label you can tell it has attitude.

If you do read the label, though, it says:  "High altitude.  High attitude.  High land.  High ya.  No rice."

Hmm.  Sounds like they’re smoking "hops" over at the Oskar Blues Brewery.  Yeah.


Let’s see how it tastes.  I pop open the can and take a sniff.  A low-key barley whiff and something that reminds me of whiskey.  Seriously.  Whiskey.

Intriguing.  Yes, so I raise it to my lips and take a sip.

It’s a pretty good beer for something that’s in a can.  Unfortunately I can taste the can, and it doesn’t help the flavor.  But can or no can, it’s buttery smooth and aggressively hoppy, supported by a nice solid malt foundation that, once again, has a hint of whiskey in the flavor.  A little on the heavy side, which I like, and definitely features a nice alcohol twang (8.0% by volume).

Groovy, but not a holy brew.  I’d be happy to drink a six pack of this on a hot summer afternoon out by the pool.

Cans, you know, don’t break.  They’re pool safe.

Extra ESB Ale

Posted by on 12 May 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!

imageSo, this bottle says this ale is "extra special."

I pop the top, take that obligatory sniff.  I smell dark malt, brown sugar, and well tuned hops.

My mouth starts watering.

Meanwhile, I’m listening to a hilarious podcast show called "We’re Mean Because You’re Stupid," and I’m torn.  I need to pause the show and take a drink, or I won’t be able to concentrate on this review.  Yet, I hesitate, because I’m totally hooked on this show.

Is that the ultimate compliment or what?  I’m hesitating drinking a beer because I’m too involved in a podcast.

"We’re Mean Because You’re Stupid" obviously rocks.

Anyway, I pause it, because otherwise the beer is going to get warm.

I take that first sip and immediately have to sound the Gulp Alert.  The sip got really long, and was no longer a sip, and I was in danger of draining the bottle in one long greedy draw.  Struggling with myself, I arm wrestled the beer away from my mouth and sat it down to at least type this one paragraph.  Even now my palate is buzzing.  I’m surprised, seriously — I didn’t think this beer would be this good.  I mean, it doesn’t look that impressive.

There you go.  A new twist on an old cliche.  Don’t judge a beer by its bottle.

It’s smooth, creamy, and has this amazing bittersweet balance that tingles your tongue.  There is a solid hoppy presence but it’s in the background, supporting the malt instead of the other way around.

This is a Holy Beer.  I bestow upon it a very respectable 7.9 on the Holy Grail scale, and hereby pronounce it to be a genuine Groovy BrewBreckenridge Brewery of Colorado, you have done yourself proud.

It is indeed an Extra Special Bitter Ale.

And now, back to the show…

Maximus India Pale Ale

Posted by on 12 May 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

REVISITED: 13 Months Later, it still stands up to this original review:

It’s been a long time coming, me discovering the Lagunitas Brewing Company.

Inspired by the sudden and strong affection I felt for their Hairy Eyeball Ale, I made sure to pick up another of their beers, this time the Maximus India Pale, and again I experienced love at first sip.

Lagunitas has genuine beer mojo. Seriously. "The force is strong in this one."

I’m drinking the Maximus and am trying to quantify the pleasure. It’s difficult. It’s like fine literature metamorphosed into an ale. I usually don’t wander into BeerAdvocate territory by describing things such as "mouthfeel" — the term makes me shudder with its pretentiousness — but here, well, it’s justified. Maximus has body, silkiness, the right weight, the perfect amount of carbonation, a singing taste of hops like a lover’s embrace around the palate. The malt hits with a precise backbeat, thrumming at the proper volume. The aftertaste lingers like smoke after a beautiful fire.

Again, like the Eyeball Ale, I find myself taking a long luxurious sip and having to lean back, feeling the goodness spread through me like a warm blanket on a cold night.

I’m stopping the praise here before it gets overwhelmingly corny. But, yes, I like it that much.

This beer hits high on my Holy Grail scale, weighing in at 8.1.

Lagunitas Olde Gnarly Wine

Posted by on 29 Apr 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

IMG_0789Not only is this the Kegs & Barrels brew of the week, but it’s also one I’ve been looking forward to for quite a long time. It’s already been established here on GroovyBrew that Lagunitas is the Ultimately Cool Brewery. Just about everything they produce is so over-the-top good that I start drooling the moment I see the bottle.

You can see that I am somewhat biased in this brew’s favor even before I’ve tried it. No fair? Well. Think about it. If you please someone often enough, they’ll be eager to see you again. That’s how it is between me and Lagunitas. They’ve earned the bias.

Also I happen to know they have a good stock of these over at my local beer heaven. If I like this as much as I think I will, I’ll be heading back over there tonight to stock up for the rest of the week.

On the label it reads: “The first sip is for thirst, the second one for pleasure. The third sip is for knowing, and the forth for pure madness.”

Let’s test this out.

I pop the top

I take a nice healthy sniff. I smell yeast, subdued malt, and alcohol. Nothing really jumps out at me.

First sip: I’m reeling from pleasure. It wasn’t a little sip by any measure, and it was literally confusing in its tumbling rush of different flavors. Left me feeling a little dazed, with a “What the hell just happened?” feeling.

Second sip: Sweet, rich, thick, almost syrupy in texture, so strong and smooth I can not analyze the flavors.

Third sip: Chocolaty malt so completely intermingled with the thick forest of hops that it is really hard to tell them apart. A heavy, rich flavor, bursting at the seams. Sweet coffee aftertaste.

Forth sip: Low carbonation. Silky on the tongue. I have to lean way back in my chair, close my eyes, and just enjoy it.

Okay, enough analyzing and reviewing. I just want to partake without distractions. This groovy brew is most definitely a Holy Beer Contender and I give it an outrageously high 9.1 on the Holy Grail scale.

And I am most definitely going back for more. So, my friends, if you want some, you better run, now, and get it, before I beat you to it. Especially since you can buy four of these for less than the price of one drastically inferior Rogue Old Crustacean Barleywine in it’s fancy earthenware jug.

Belhaven “Wee Heavy” Scottish Ale

Posted by on 26 Apr 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

IMG_0790Come on, how can you resist a brew called "Wee Heavy?"  I just looked at the bottle and heard Scotty’s voice saying the name.

"Aye, Captain, and I might say we’re a wee heavy!"

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, go watch some old original Star Trek episodes.  M’kay?

Moving right along.  I’ve cheated on this one, it’s already open and I have been freely imbibing.  Also — I’m already feeling it.  So I need to rush this before I lose my coherence.

Popping the top, I sniffed, snorted, and sucked on the open bottle, with no result.  This beer has no scent.  It must be too heavy, or something?


Raising it to my lips I took that first sip and almost, but not quite, had to sound the gulp alert.  This ale has a complex and busy flavor, all of it good, but I’m not sure how well balanced.

The first impression is that the beer is rather mild, then there’s a sudden surge.  A deceptively light hoppiness emerges, lasting for about 6 seconds before it is overtaken by a wonderfully aggressive wave of light brown malt, and from that crests deep, sweet notes of butterscotch.  That in turn fades to reveal another, different hoppiness, lightly bitter and hinting at citrus rind. 

All this in about 20 seconds, after which it fades almost completely, leaving you with a strong desire to do it all over again.

I’m impressed by Wee Heavy’s overall smoothness and body, and am quite pleased by the buzz it’s provided.  I like it so much, in fact, that I hereby proclaim it to be a Holy Beer Contender and rate it at a respectable 6.3 on the Holy Grail Scale.

Rogue Old Crustacean Barleywine Style Ale

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

imageThis bottle is ceramic, specially sealed to keep the carbonation in, the staleness out.  It’s heavy and much bigger than it looks in the picture.  At 750ml and 11.5% alcohol, and weighing in at about 9 pounds, you could easily use this to kill someone.

Walk into a bank, hold it up.  Shout, "I’ve got a Rogue Old Crustacean and I’m not afraid to use it!"

People scream.  They hand over money.  You use it to go buy more of this stuff.  Why?  Because at $18 a bottle you’ll need to knock off a bank to be able to afford it.

As you can see, it comes with a stopper so you can enjoy some now, enjoy some later.  I guess there’s some wimps out there who can’t handle a whole bottle at once.

Hee hee, let’s see how wimpy I turn out to be.  I have already popped the top and taken a sniff.  It smells like deep roasted barley with maple overtones.  Delicious

Raising the big, heavy ceramic bottle to my lips, I heave it back and let the liquid gold gurgle into my beer hole.

Seventeen hours later, I wake up stark naked, covered with dirt, in the bushes beside Highway 75 north of Dallas.  I have no idea how I got here.  It appears my eyebrow has been pierced.

No, seriously, this stuff is so strong it’s like getting the liquid equivalent of a ninja kick to the head.  The first rush you get is, of course, the barley and malt.  Bam!  You know that’s going to leave a bruise.  Then as that fades, it leaves you with the sparkling effervescence of those fine Oregon hops, rushing you with a wall of bitterness you have to have learned to love over time and lots of dedication.

The alcohol you can’t really taste.  Other high content brews I’ve had give you a warning through your taste buds, adding a vodka-like flavor to the mix.  This one doesn’t.  Before you taste a warning, you feel it.  You feel it like that kick to the head I was telling you about.  It catches you off guard just like waking up naked in the meridian of a major interstate freeway.  People in cars pointing at you.  Laughing.

Okay.  As I type this, I have finished the bottle, and I am feeling … drunk.  Officially drunk.  Most definitely drunk.

My dear friends I promise you I will not go driving.

I will also not proclaim this to be a Holy Beer Contender.  I will also say that, while this brew is very good, I do not think it’s worth the price.  I’ve had brews a third the price that I consider much better.

Still, I have to say it’s officially groovy.  We’ll see how I feel about it tomorrow morning.

Steamworks Lizard Head Red

Posted by on 07 Apr 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

IMG_0264 I grabbed this beer over at Kegs & Barrels, my local beer heaven, simply because it has the word “lizard” on the label. I like lizards. In fact, I even have a website about them.

Enough about the lizards though, let’s get to the beer.

I pop the top.

It’s got that hoppy red scent, alright. Hops are very predominant in this. Almost overwhelmingly so. Malt is only a distant and subdued echo buried under blankets of hops.

I wonder if that is the taste, as well? Let’s find out.

I raise the bottle to my lips.

First impression: awesome balance. Masterful, even. It’s medium-light, hoppy, but not over-the-top hoppy. It doesn’t explode hops out your nose and ears. No, it’s well balanced and reigned in by Munich crystal malts which bring a surprisingly delicate taste to something that I expected to be so wild.

But what, I wonder … what does it have to do with lizards? Specifically, lizard heads?

Please tell me that no lizards were harmed in the brewing of this beer! Unfortunately I can neither confirm or deny this, as the Steamworks website says nothing on the subject. They merely brag about how this is the second most popular amber ale at their pubs.

I proclaim this beer to be good, in fact I would even say it’s fairly groovy. It is not, however, a Holy Beer Contender, and so does not qualify for a spot on the scale.

Sorry Steamworks. Even though there’s a lizard on the label, it’s not quite groovy enough to stand out.

You best not be putting lizard heads in this beer. If you are, they will get their revenge.

Kronenbourg 1664

Posted by on 05 Apr 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews


This beer jumped out at me and screamed, “Buy me! I look weird!”

It’s not the bottle, but the name. I don’t know why, but Kronenbourg 1664 sounds to me like the title of a science fiction novel.

Hmm. Maybe if I drink it, I’ll go back in time.

I pop the top, take a sniff. Not much to the scent.

The first sip is uninspired. In fact, it’s downright nasty. My first thought is that it reminds me of Michelob.

Weak, watery, slightly hoppy, with an uninspired mass-produced beer flavor, the only good thing I can really come up with for it is that at least it doesn’t have that Anheuser Bush tang of industrial poison.

Yet, it has sent me back in time. No, not to the year 1664, but back to when I was a dirt poor college student and we had to scrape pennies off the street to buy weak-ass cheapo canned beer on sale at the wino heaven. After about 5 of those desperate-enough-to-drink-anything beers they actually began to taste … well, not good, but not that bad either.

I suspect it would be the same with this. But, it’s not dirt cheap, and I’m not desperate.

So this Kronenbourg 1664 “Imported from France” “biere” can go right back to France.

I hereby proclaim this beer to be not groovy.

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!

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.

Hairy Eyeball Ale

Posted by on 29 Feb 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!, Holy Beer Contenders

I am revisiting this beer with this year’s batch, and Oh My God it’s still outrageously good! So much so I’ve upgraded its score on the Holy Grail Scale to 9.

My first sip hit like a dark wave of sweet chocolaty malt, smooth as velvet, rich as gold. The flavor evoked such pleasure I was shocked.


Make no bones about it, this stuff is good. It’s fall down on your knees and praise the Lord good. It’s take a slow long slip and lean way back and feel the pleasure all the way to your toes good.

I’m going to stop there. Any more praise will be overkill.

I called the brewery, but being Saturday, no one answered. I visited the website: Lagunitas Brewing Company. I wrote fan mail and asked for interviews. My head buzzed with the need to know more, more.

On the website it reads, “Brewed in a bizarre old world tradition using only water, hops, yeast, and malted barley. No dogs are harmed in our brewing process.”

Today, Tuesday, Tony Magee from Lagunitas wrote me back. I had written: “Is there a story behind this beer? Where did “Hairy Eyeball” come from? What is in it? Who’s the genius behind this recipe?” Tony as it turns out is the genius, the author, and the warlord of the brewery. In his own words:

The Story Behind The Beer is like this… We were wanting to do what no one was doing in 1995, a January Seasonal — a special beer for when nobody was really drinking beer. We were going to call it “Eye of the Dog” but decided the folks who make ‘Eye of the Hawk’ might not think it was funny as we did so at the last minute we chickened out and thought up “Hairy Eyeball” as a sort of hang-over spoof for January … whatever … the next beer that year was then called “Eye of the Hairball” (a wheatwine) and the third seasonal would be “Hair of the Dog Ball,” but we chickened out on that too and named it Maximus instead…

The malts are the key to this recipe and they center around some careful use of Chocolate and Black Malt… I write the recipes and design/write the labels… I started the brewery back in the distant 1993… Most of all, I’m glad you dug the beer and if you are ever in Petaluma I hope you’ll stop by!

Tony also gave me permission to print the story from the bottle. Now, don’t skip this, unless you’re going to go out and buy a bottle for yourself. I loved it:

“Laying there, staring up at the ceiling, head pounding, last night was a dim recollection. How did he get home? Was he alone? Looking to the left and right, the answer was yes, maybe. His head was full of ‘rag water, bitters, and blue rum. His teeth felt like he’d been chewing aluminum and his breath smelled like a burning tractor tire. There was a wrenching knot somewhere between his liver and East St. Louis and he couldn’t be sure whether or not he’d wet himself. A yellow sine wave rang in his ears so loud it made his teeth itch and he was sure that if he touched his skin anywhere it would induce a rhythmic retching jag. Even in the face of all that, he found himself smiling at the realization that today represented the fresh breast of a new year, an undiscovered country, and also that there was still one warm, half-full, flat, redolent Hairy Eyeball on the nightstand. Yes, there is a God.”

I went back to my local beer heaven to find they only had eight left, and he said that was it. There would be no more this year. So I bought two, one for myself and one for my friend Bill. I left the rest for other people to enjoy.

This ale hit a whopping 8.2 9 on my Holy Grail scale, the highest so far.

Better go get yours before they’re all gone.

When Is A Beer Not A Beer?

Posted by on 05 Jan 2008 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

PICT6707I’m sorry everyone.  I know I haven’t been here much lately.  I’ve been doing a lot of work on my novel.

You know, the novel about the Holy Beer.

But, during a recent ice storm, my love took this most excellent picture for me of something we were drinking, and since it is a "malt beverage" and the picture is just so darn beautiful, I had to write something about it.

Growing up, we called these "wine coolers."  The town I lived in at the time, Stockton California, was the home of the original bottled wine cooler, California Cooler.  A few of my friends even worked there.  I don’t remember if those were "malt beverages" or actually concocted out of wine — I suspect the latter, as the Central Valley is like Napa’s farm league area — but right on the tail of California Cooler’s success came a plethora of new brands, one of which was Bartles & James, who ended up buying out California Coolers and who — I suspect — were producing something more akin to flavored clear beer instead of a wine/fruit mix.

Now, however, when I want one of these alcohol infused soda pops, the brand I usually reach for is Smirnoff, such as the one pictured here.  It’s good for those of us with a sweet tooth when we’re not in the mood for a beer (I know, blasphemy) and, from what I’ve seen, this type of malt beverage has a much higher appeal to a broad demographic of females than actual beer.

I know this is a generalization but it’s something I’ve noticed.  Of course there are exceptions.  My girl next door enjoys a good beer as much as I do, but my love does not, and neither does my 21-year-old daughter.

My question is, though — and I’m asking this because I really don’t know — is a flavored malt beverage actually considered, technically, a beer, or not?

Chicken Killer Barley Wine Ale

Posted by on 20 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!, Holy Beer Contenders

With a name like “Chicken Killer” you know I’m going to be messed up by the time this bottle is empty.

Popping the top, I smell a sweet infusion of hops and barley, nice but not overpowering.

First sip turned into a first series of gulps and I struggled to stop the reptilian portion of my brain from downing the entire bottle. Yes, my friends, the Gulp Alert is being sounded on this one.

This brew is thick, smooth, sweet and oozes flavor like syrup. The alcohol is so prevalent you can taste it, giving the ale a crystalline quality that delivers the barley like a 5 star dish garnished with energized hops. A third the way through the bottle I’m already feeling a good buzz and I’m starting to sweat. I’m also getting nervous about what I’m going to write.

Alcohol-influenced writing is usually less than coherent. And here, two-thirds the way though the bottle, that is what I’m feeling. Less than coherent.

I lean far back in my squeaky red chair. I put my hands behind my head, close my eyes. The brew is almost gone. My ears are ringing and my teeth feel soft and wiggly. Reaching out I pick up the big brown bottle, take a slow sip, and savor. Ten percent alcohol, and the bottle holds 1 pint & 6 ounces.

Not only do I hereby proclaim this a Groovy Brew, and not only do I bestow upon it an amazingly high 8.8 on the Holy Grail Scale, I also vote Sante Fe Brewing Company’s Chicken Killer Barley Wine Ale as the brew most likely to also be used as rocket fuel.

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout

Posted by on 17 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

This limited release beer is as totally over the top as you’d expect from Lagunitas Brewing Company.

Imagine going to Starbucks and ordering a beer.

This would be it. Cappuccino Stout.

I drank two of these without writing a single word. I didn’t want to be bothered. The brew demanded all my attention.

This beer is for someone who drinks black strong coffee straight up. No cream. No sugar.

This beer is for someone who has turned so jaded that everything tastes the same and has blended into a grey muck, and life has turned dim, and all pretty women look like hard plastic. It’s for someone who can’t stand to turn on a radio because the entire spectrum makes you gag. You want to smash cell phones, you want to wreck your car on purpose, you want to set fire to a bank.

This beer is for you.

It will realign your Universe, reset your brain, and help you regain your love of humanity. This beer will pull you back from the brink. This beer will help you breathe.

This beer will help you create.

This beer will give you the urge to put on big heavy boots and stomp around in the mud, laughing hysterically, and roll around on the floor with a puppy.

This beer just might save your life.

I hereby proclaim it a Groovy Brew and rate it 8.1 on the Holy Grail Scale. Get it while you can, it’s seasonal, and it’s disappearing fast.

Sisyphus 2007

Posted by on 06 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!, Holy Beer Contenders

This beer is gone.

This is a grade A prime gulp alert beer. I couldn’t help myself. I swilled this dark treasure down faster than a thirsty football goon sucks a sports drink.

Sisyphus 2007 is a Barleywine Style Ale, brewed with a dark concoction of malts and hops that causes the palate to bypass all reason and short circuit the moderation center of the brain. In scientific terms, this ale swiftly accelerates a human foot into direct and sudden collision with the gluteus maximus.

Extremely smooth, sweet, and rich, it starts with an explosion of flavor and never lets up. At the end of the bottle it leaves with a smooth, rich, and tastefully dry finish.

Not to mention an intense desire for more.

This wonderful brew is hereby bestowed the title of Groovy, and weighs in at a mighty 8.1 on the Holy Grail Scale.

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.

Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale

Posted by on 31 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

Do you know what the phrase, “Once in a blue moon,” means? Well, yes, it means that it hardly ever happens. To some it means never.

Blue moons happen, though. According to which definitions you use, a “blue” moon is either when there’s a second full moon in a month, or a forth full moon in a quarter. In those cases the moon isn’t actually blue in color, it’s just a term.

Then there’s time where, after the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, the moon actually appeared blue for two years straight due to all the volcanic ash floating around in the stratosphere.

That’s really rare.

This blue moon isn’t that rare — it happens once a year. Part of Blue Moon Brewing’s Seasonal Collection, their Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale smells of golden brown malts and caramel. Taking a sip, the first thing you taste is a glimpse of pumpkin pie, but that’s quickly overwhelmed with spices.

Seriously overwhelmed.

The spiciness fades to a green hoppy bitterness that remains strong, edged with more spice. Fans of a clove-infused Tripel Ale would really get into this. I, however, do not. I find it heavy-handed and most definitely not groovy.

But … it’s a good scary beer for Halloween. Boo!

Tiger Lager

Posted by on 26 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

I didn’t find this one at my local beer heaven. It was at a gas station.

I didn’t take that as a bad omen. A gas station is where I once discovered one of my favorite brews. This was sitting in the cold case, in a row of singles, flanked by Corona and Heineken.

Tiger Lager? Never heard of it. Curiosity and a spirit of adventure made me pick it up.

At home I put on my glasses and read the fine print on the label. “Brewed and bottled in Asia,” it states. Singapore, to be exact.

Hmm. Same general vicinity as Phuket. Interesting.

I popped the cap. Lifted it up and took a sniff. The smell hints of light malt, corn and grass.

Putting the heavy brown bottle to my lips I tip it back. It starts tangy but almost instantly fades to bland. Not bad, but not that good. It’s weak and boring, tasting primarily of a pale malt, grassy green hops, and ending quickly with a dry finish.

Sorry Tiger. Not groovy.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

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

Nope, that’s not a typo. This is a “punkin” ale, meant to drink, no doubt, while you’re “punkin out.”

I have no idea why but this brew reminds me of the Ramones. It might have something to do with the word “Punk” at the top of the bottle. It seems like something you’d drink at Rock ‘n’ Roll High School during a Halloween Party.

RIP Joey Ramone, this beer is for you. I drink it in your honor. Thank you for all the wonderful music.

Popping the top, it smells of sweet golden malt wrapped around a sugary pumpkin core.

I love Dogfish Head‘s minimalistic labels, especially when they list the beer’s ingredients in big bold letters right up front. This one says, “A full-bodied brown ale brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon & nutmeg.” I mean, if this is accurate, they’ve already written my review for me.

I raise the bottle to my lips, and tip it back.

Interesting. Very interesting. There’s a lot going on here. At first sip it all seems well balanced, each flavor strong but in harmony with the one next to it. You can taste the brown sugar infused malt, but it’s well balanced with a hoppy bitterness, and that bitterness — though strong — is not overpowering, mainly due to it being so well balanced with the pumpkin flavor. The pumpkin in turn is balanced with the spices, mainly the cinnamon. It’s the cinnamon that dominates the aftertaste, bringing the whole package to a tidy close.

It’s good. I like it. I wouldn’t call it a Holy Beer but it definitely stands up well under the term “punk.”

Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale is definitely a punked out pumpkin brew, and I hereby officially declare it groovy.

Samuel Adams OctoberFest

Posted by on 21 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

Beer as poetry:

Deep whiff
Sweet hops and malt
Tastes like beer nirvana
Toasty malty lager flavor

If anyone can brew beer that inspires poetry it would be Samuel Adams.

If a beer does, indeed, inspire poetry, it belongs on the Holy Beer contender list.

I hereby put this one on the list, scoring a respectable 5.5 on the Holy Grail Scale.

It has a toffee bread taste stoked by a caramel malt, very easy on the tongue, and titillating anyone with a sweet tooth.

I could easily drink these one after another until I couldn’t walk anymore.

Bravo, Samuel Adams. Well done.

Goose Island Honker’s Ale

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

And here we have Goose Island Honker’s Ale from Chicago.

This review is dedicated to my good buddy Tim.

I met Tim while he was working at a local electronics store, and I at a computer store. We were just kids back then, barely out of diapers. Our bottles were full of pediatric beer, and woe to anyone who tried to pull the nipples out of our mouths.

Fast friends we were, and still are. He lives up in Chicagoland now, which is why I dedicate this to him.

The dedication has nothing to do with geese or honking.

So I pop the cap off this goose, and take a good long sniff before plugging the nipple onto the end. It’s a light sent, hard to quantify. A little watery perhaps, some hints of hops. Not much else.

Sucking hard on the nipple, I’m rewarded with a delicious golden malt, bitter up front and very hoppy, the malt rising then dropping under those hops to become a muted undertone. It has a medium body, and is not sweet at all. The bitter aftertaste not bad, and like a few other beers I’ve had recently it reminds me of a Henry Weinhards.

The only thing that bugs me is a statement on the label, boasting a “Perfect blend of hops and malt.” Hmm. Perfect according to whom? A goose?

Talking about honking your own horn.

To sum it up, this beer is mildly groovy, good for a dinner beer, and something I’d be happy to share with my friend Tim.

Saint Arnold Oktoberfest

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

First things first. I want to wish my older daughter, Danielle, happy birthday! She is 21 years old today.

That has nothing to do with this beer review other than the fact that she is now of legal age to drink it. She won’t, though, because she doesn’t like beer.

Which is fine. The last thing I need is someone drinking my beer when I’m not looking. Heh.

Anyway, this beer is from my good friends over at Kegs And Barrels, which I always refer to here as “my local beer heaven.” It was specifically suggested to me and I’m glad they did.

Pop the top of this Saint Arnold Oktoberfest and you’re welcomed with a sweet citrus smell over golden roasted malt. Not much hoppiness in the scent, but when you taste it, the hops are there.

The strong citrus taste is prevalent in the flavor as well. It rides like a Harley over the highway of golden malt, with a strong hoppy breeze blowing straight from the west. It’s smooth, rich, and damn good.

Damn good. Damn. Good.

Can you tell I like this beer? I mean, I really like it. It’s a winner, and I not only proclaim it as a groovy brew but place it in the ranks of a Holy Beer contender, weighing in at 6.1 on the Holy Grail Scale.

John’s Grocery Generations White Ale

Posted by on 13 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

I lost the picture of the bottle, hence the logo graphic.

I also lost this review, having saved the file in the wrong folder on my laptop. I happened upon tonight it by mistake.

Aha, I thought. That’s where that went.

My notes on this beer tells the tale of surprise, as in, I was surprised I liked it as much as I did. You see, I don’t generally go for spice beers. They force me to exercise my ability to suppress my gag reflex, and afterwards usually leave me with indigestion.

With John’s Grocery Generations White Ale, by Millstream Brewery, this was not the case. It’s actually a very enjoyable beer, with light wheat malt, serious hops and very well blended spices. The taste is at once both smooth and zesty, with an aftertaste that hints strongly of citrus.

I’ll rate this one as mildly groovy, good for a picnic or as a poolside refreshment. It would also be good as a marinade for barbecued steaks.

Shipyard Brewing’s Pumpkinhead Ale

Posted by on 11 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

Ah, yes! Now this beer’s label shows The Great Pumpkin in its true demonic form! Riding a vegetable horse and holding a beer.

At least, I think that’s a beer. Anyway…

I twist off the cap. Take that obligatory whiff. And, wow, it smells very strongly of pumpkin. Outrageously so. Way in the back, a dark malt and some spices compete furiously for second place.

When I started this month, I had only intended to try one pumpkin ale. However the sheer number of breweries coming out with these Halloween oriented brews has kind of forced a theme on me for this month. This is the third one I’ve had and I have two more in the fridge.

Unlike the others I’ve sampled, this one features a sweet pumpkin taste. It’s almost overwhelming. To me it seems like they’re going for a pumpkin candy flavor instead of pumpkin pie. It’s not bad, but there’s not much else going on with this beer.

You want pumpkin? Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale gives you pumpkin. And how.

After the pumpkin candy fades, you get a brief burst of hops, followed by a battle between weak malt and a mix of spices. This winds down to a mild spicy bitterness, and leaves you there.

Not bad, really. Not wonderful. Not even groovy.

It’s just … pumpkin. And if you like pumpkin, well… Here it is.

Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale

Posted by on 08 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

It’s Jack the Pumpkin Head, and he’s got beer.

My neighbor, who’s a total sweetheart, she likes pumpkin. So do I — especially pumpkin pie — and so one of the three beers she brought over was this “All malt seasonal brew limited edition Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale.” According to the label, it’s “Ale brewed with only the finest barley malt, the choicest hops, pumpkin and spices.”

Does anyone hear any familiar wording in that front label boast?

Searching around the bottle confirmed my suspicions. This brew is brought to us by the same people who are responsible for the beachwood-aged disaster which they proclaim as, “The King of Beers.”

I clear my thoughts. I try to forget this fact. I want to keep an open mind, and not pre-judge the brew.

I pop the twist-off cap and take a whiff. It smells like sour pumpkin over the top of some weak brown malt. Well, I think to myself, that doesn’t really mean anything. Let’s give it a try.

I take the first sip. It does not become a gulp. I take another, smaller sip.

Nope. No surprises. It’s fizzy, watery, and sour-bitter, tasting like Budweiser with a touch of pumpkin juice and some nutmeg. It rolls down the back of the throat like dry weeds. The aftertaste gives me the signature chemical tang of an Anheuser-Busch beer.

Not groovy. Not at all. If you want a good pumpkin beer, I recommend Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale.

In fact, I’m going to go over to my local Beer Heaven and buy a Buffalo Bill’s for my neighbor. She’ll love it.

Gouden Haven Premium Pils Lager

Posted by on 05 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Gulp Alert!

Bier uit Holland!

My neighbor, Hope, brought this one over for me to try. My daughters are over at her place now, having a girl’s movie night. The elder daughter was here long enough to grab something out of the kitchen while I was reading the this beer’s label. “Tonight it’s your turn to do dishes,” she said, and immediately left.

I checked the new chore chart she’d drawn up. Yes, indeed, it is in fact my turn to do dishes.

I’m going to drink a beer first, though.

It’s stubby topped bottle, that’s for sure. You can tell it’s an import. Something about the green glass and the label remind me of Heineken.

I pop the top, and take a sniff. Not much of a scent. I practically have to suck foam into my nostril to detect a hint of malts.

Raising the “Bier uit Holland!” to my lips, the initial sip turns into gulps, the first shock of taste being delicious. Savoring the after flavor, I discover this beer is a bit watery — but smooth — and features very delicate hoppy notes with a malt undertone that tastes almost crystalline. It fades to a light bitterness that reminds me of fog, the taste of which is an atmospheric mist on the tongue.

Good stuff. Not outstanding, but definitely groovy.

Beer done, I check the chore chart again. Hmm. Glancing through the days I discover … it’s always my turn to do dishes!

What’s up with that?!

Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale

Posted by on 02 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

Okay, first I turn up with banana bread beer, and now I’m confronted with a pumpkin ale.

Who came up with this? Linus van Pelt? After his 21st birthday he goes to the pumpkin patch and calls out, “O Great Pumpkin, I need a beer!”

The ground shakes under his Vans. The creepy, dark trees sway, branches cracking, and an eerie grinding sound grows from the shadows. Linus takes a few steps back, realizing he may have made a mistake … realizing the Great Pumpkin may actually be evil.

From the shadows comes an explosion of dirt and grass, and out jumps the Great Pumpkin. “Dude!” it yells. “You order some brewski?”

“Oh my God!” Linus exclaims. “The acid, it’s working!”

[To the dear departed soul of Charles M. Schulz, I apologize. I blame the beer.]

So, what do we have here, anyway? Not from the Great Pumpkin (though it may be made out of the Great Pumpkin) this is the product of Buffalo Bill’s Brewery.

Pumpkin Ale.

What the heck? It’s October, let’s go with it.

I pop the top of this strange mutant brew and am hit with the strong scent of … what else? Pumpkin pie. Seriously. That’s the exact smell. Pumpkin pie, with beer poured over the top of it.

The first sip is seriously carbonated, drowning out all flavor until it calms down. What follows next, in quick succession, is an out of control hayride of pumpkin, spices, mild hops, light malt, and hops again, leaving you at the end with a pumpkin pie and beer aftertaste. Every sip is kind of like a Halloween-themed thrill ride.

I am surprised but … I like it. It’s pretty good. Not quite as good as the banana bread beer, but I have to say it’s mildly groovy. I can see it served at a party, or a themed dinner. Or a haunted house.

Or maybe a pumpkin patch.

At midnight.

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.

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