Monday, January 21, 2013

Lagunitas Sucks – Brown Shugga’ Substitute

One thing I have learned in life is I learn my most memorable lessons when I experience a failure or a defeat.  It has taken me some time and some gray hair to not only learn this lesson, but also to take it in stride.  Mistakes also occur at companies and Lagunitas Brewing Co. serves as a shining example of learning from a mistake and taking it in stride.  Brown Shugga’ is a seasonal release from Lagunitas that could not be brewed one year due to “construction-induced capacity issues”, and Lagunitas decided to brew another beer and make fun of themselves in the naming of Lagunitas Sucks (7.85% ABV and 63 IBU), an Imperial IPA.  This year, I had the opportunity to sample both Brown Shugga’ and Lagunitas Sucks – both are excellent.  Learn from the example of Lagunitas - learn from your mistake, take it in stride and figure out a way to improve.  

American Double / Imperial IPA – - BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Copper, like a bright new penny, with a two-finger head that takes some time to recede and with nice lacing.
Aroma – Hoppy and you know you are in for a hop trip – tropical fruit and citrus are the main aromas.
Taste – A bit of sweetness – think a touch of honey - and then citrus (lemon / orange / grapefruit) and tropical fruit (mango / papaya) with a piney / resin finish.
OverallA – This beer is fantastic and I am really glad that Lagunitas needed to make this substitute – it is available for only a short time and if you are a fan of IPAs – buy it.  I plan to pick up another 6er on the next trip to the store, if any are remaining.

Website description – “E. K. Ross would have enjoyed our suffering in 2010 when he saw we couldn’t brew our Brown Shugga.  But in that time of deepest despair, as is common to artist everywhere… broke, hungover, abandoned by the muse and prepared to take a job at Arby’s, we found that in that darkness the  spark of inspiration that would yield up this nearly sanctified recipe!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tasting History - New Albion Ale

Jack McAuliffe started New Albion Brewing Co. in 1976 and while the brewery only survived a few years, brewing its final batch in 1982, McAuliffe and New Albion made brewing history as one of breweries that started craft brewing in the U.S.  New Albion has been described as, “the most important failed brewery in the industry’s history” (Ogle, Maureen).  It was important for serving as an example to other brewers who were getting started in that time period, brewing beers that were not like the large marco-breweries, using hops differently and in larger volumes, and a number of other reasons.  Flash forward to 2012 and Jim Koch of Boston Beer Co. announces that New Albion Ale (6% ABV and 30 IBU) would be brewed under the Samuel Adams brand and available in January 2012. 

American Pale Ale - BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Straw gold with a one-finger head that quickly dissipates.  The beer is very clear with good carbonation – a steady stream of bubbles from the bottom of the glass.
Aroma – Grain, floral, citrus and pine / resin.  I picked up the grain the most.
Taste – A solid APA that starts with a sweetness, bread from the malt then a bit of citrus, grass from the hops and then a clean finish with little aftertastes
OverallB – New Albion Ale is very easy to drink and I really appreciate Boston Beer Co. brewing a bit of history.  We have a plethora of choices in beer today and we are in the middle of a craft beer renaissance.  I am happy to have the opportunity to try a bit of history.  It will be here for only a limited time – pick some up and taste a bit of history.

Website description – “Brewed solely with American Cascade hops (why? Because that was all that was available to Jack at the time), New Albion Ale is a golden American Pale Ale that holds a distinct citrus hop note and subtle piney character. A delicious brew, it’s no wonder New Albion Ale inspired so many of the Pale Ales we drink today.”

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sierra Nevada - Bigfoot 2012 & Narwhal 2012

Sierra Nevada has been in craft brewing for over thirty years - the company was founded in 1979 and if you want consistently good beer and a variety of styles to select, Sierra nevada is an easy choice.  They also have nationwide distribution and are one of the largest craft brewers in the U.S.  One of their new offerings is Narwhal (10.2% ABV and 60 BU) is an Imperial Stout, which is one of my favorite styles and an old offering is Bigfoot (9.6% ABV and 90 IBU) is a Barleywine style ale.  Both of these beers are seasonal offerings and you will need to purchase them when they are available.  Narwhal is in 4-packs and Bigfoot is in 6-packs.  These are appropriate for cellaring and the Bigfoot is almost one year old.  These are big beers and they should be poured into a snifter and allowed to warm up a bit (50 - 55 degrees).  Think of sitting be a fire and slowly enjoying these - you want to savor every drop.  Both of these beers deserve space in your fridge / cellar and I plan to keep back a few bottles of each and plan to do a vertical tasting of these at some point in the future.  I rate both as A beers and Narwhal recently won a medal at the GABF in Oct.  If you want to try either of these styles - Sierra Nevada makes two excellent ones.  

Also - start looking for Ruthless Rye - a seasonal offering that is now available from Sierra Nevada.  

Russian Imperial Stout - - BeerAdvocate
American Barleywine - - BeerAdvocate

Narwhal website description - “A malt-forward monster, highlighting the depths of malt flavor.  Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come.

Bigfoot website description - “Our cult-classic beast of a barleywine.  Bigfoot is a beast of a beer, brimming with bold flavors of bittersweet malt and heaps of aggressive whole-cone Pacific Northwest hops. First introduced in the winter of 1983, Bigfoot is a cult-classic beer brewed in the barleywine style, meaning a strong, robust, bruiser of a beer with the refined intensity of a wine. Bigfoot is prized by beer collectors for its supreme cellarability. Under the proper conditions, it can age like a fine wine, developing new flavors and character as it matures in the bottle. Each new release or “expedition” is vintage dated. Collect your own and see the flavors develop and progress.”

Narwhal -
Bigfoot -

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Alaskan Imperial Red Ale

Alaskan Brewing Co. was one of the first craft breweries I toured almost 10 ten years ago and they are still growing and brewing strong.  The have a series called the Pilot Series that is a rotating collection of different beers that are offered in 22 oz. bombers.  Alaskan Imperial Red Ale (8.5% ABV and 70 IBU) is a west coast style Imperial Red and Alaskan is going for a balanced beer that is slightly malt-forward.

American Amber / Red Ale - - BeerAdvocate.Com 

Appearance - Deep amber / ruby with a two finger head that takes some time to recede.
Aroma - Let it warm up a bit - one can detect sweetness (honey?) from the malt, alcohol, and citrus, herb, and resin from the hops.
Taste - Sweetness if the first sensation, then bitterness (citrus - grapefruit / lemon) and then a dry finish.
Overall - B - This was not a bad beer; however, it is not a great beer. I think the Barley Wine, Perseverance, and the Double Black IPA were fantastic beers. I suggest to try one of these, Smoked Porter or Alaskan Amber if you are looking for something from Alaskan Brewing Co.

Website description - "Alaskan Imperial Red is a full-bodied deep mahogany ale with ruby red highlights. Citrus notes of chamomile, grapefruit and Meyer lemon brighten the aroma. A zesty array of hop flavors from mango and bitter orange to green mint and hibiscus meld with the nutty, roasted caramel and subtle dried fruit flavors of the complex malt profile to create a surprisingly fresh, yet warming example of the style."