Jun 19, 2009

"Beer Me, Earl!" Reviews - Part 1 of 4

Note: Most of the information gathered in these regional beer profiles has been gleaned from the the wonderful users over at BeerAdvocate. Their reviews are a must for any serious brew-hound. Also, I decided to exclude brewpubs from these profiles and just stick with actual craft breweries. Generally a brewpub makes beer that is only sold in it's own establishment.  I wanted to stay with breweries whose product you could actually find at your local store/distributor/bar.  Hopefully. And I'm only going to highlight 2 or 3 per region.  Also, feel free to nit-pick.  I dig beer and all, but I'm certainly not the absolute last word on it. - Earl 

Well, I received a few more regional beer profile requests than I thought I would.  That's awesome, by the way.  So I decided to stretch it out over a couple of days to ease the burden.  So let's get retarded/started, shall we?

Callie - "I'm from Wheatland, California.  Beer me, Earl!"
What a way to start!  California, by far, is the craft beer capital of the country if not the world.  It boasts at least 94 breweries according to BeerAdvocate.  To give that some perspective, the next state on the the list is Washington with 30.  That's a lot of breweries.  So I'm going to try to pare it down some by focusing on the Wheatland area.  Having never been to California (yeah, I'm the only one), I have no idea where Wheatland is.  Frankly, everything west of the Hudson River is a mystery to me.  So it is off to Google I go.  I see that it located in Yuba County.  That doesn't help.  Let's see...it's located in California's Central Valley just north of Sacremento.  OK...that gives me something to work with.  Sacremento.  Nope...wait, nada.  No breweries in Sacremento.  Crap!

Let's just settle on San Francisco.  How about that?  San Francisco is home to two breweries.  Anyone who drinks beer should be aware of the Anchor Brewing Company.   It's been around since the days of the Gold Rush and it has been a leader since 1959 in the craft beer revolution in this country.  Whether you are having an Anchor Steam Ale, an Anchor Liberty Ale, an Anchor Porter or their yearly Anchor Special/Christmas Ale you are having a fine brew indeed.  You just really can't go wrong with any of the Anchor offerings.

The other brewery in San Francisco is Speakeasy Ales & Lagers.  I've never tried any of their beers, but their Big Daddy IPA and their Double Daddy Imperial IPA seem to be the most popular.  I love a good India Pale Ale.  I've got a thing for over-hopped beers.  And whenever you see the word "Imperial" attached to a beer, that usually means high alcohol level.  Sometimes 2 or 3 times the alcohol in your normal beer.  I like that too.  Speakeasy beers haven't made their way to NY yet, but it looks like the kind of beer company that I dig.  I'd love to try the Prohibition Ale, as it's their best reviewed beer.

Dave2 - "I'm from Washington State.  Beer me, Earl!"
Dave mentioned the wonderful number of beers available in his home state and he was correct in stating that it is a challenge to pick only a couple.  But I'm going to do my best.  As I mentioned earlier, Washington has the second-most breweries in the nation behind (far behind) California, but a lot of them are pretty small. They also have over 70 different brewpubs in the state, so they really appreciate their craft beer in Washington.  Along with the wonderful brews coming out of Oregon, I'd have to say the Pacific Coast is far ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to craft beer brewing.  I have to make it out there one of these days.

Alright, I said I was just going to stick with breweries and stay away from brewpubs, but some of my favorite beers coming out the great state of Washington come out of the Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle.  So I am going to make an exception. My only knock against the kids at Elysian are the somewhat goofy labels on some of the bottles.  Some of them look like something out of a bad comic-book.  But the beer inside is heaven!  (Get it?) Give The Wise ESB, The Immortal IPA or their Dragonstooth Stout a try.  All are wonderful.  But my favorite is their Avatar Jasmine IPA.  It gets some mixed reviews, but I love the inclusion of jasmine in the brewing process.  It takes the floral nose of your normal IPA and cranks it up a big notch.  Not for everyone, but Gia and I love it.  We bought a case of it a few months ago and it went way too fast.  Now we settle for a bottle here and there when we can find it.  Yum.

Another brewery in Washington that gets some pretty strong reviews is the Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company & Taproom in Snoqualmie.  Another one I haven't tried because it isn't available in my area, but they seem to have a nice selection.  Wildcat India Pale Ale, Steam Train Porter, Copperhead American Pale Ale, Spring Fever Belgian Style Grand Cru...they all sound good to me.  I'm a sucker for a good pumpkin beer in the Fall as well, so I would have to give their Extra Special Butternut a try.  If they ever make it again, that is.  It may have been a one-time deal only available at their tasting room.

Oh, and just for Dave.  Yakima Craft Brewing Co. made a Winter Belgian Ale last year called Bad Monkey.  I dunno if it is still available, but I thought you might appreciate that.

LegalMist - "I'm from Arizona.  Beer me, Earl!"
Arizona is a pretty decent state for beer in this country.  They boast 10 breweries and 25 individual brewpubs in the state.  Not bad.  I would have imagined that most of those would be in Phoenix, but I would be incorrect.  As usual.  My East Coast bias is showing again.  Gotta work on that.  No, they are spread across the state in Tempe, Cave Creek, Brisbee, Scottsdale, Williams, Tucson, Scottsdale and Flagstaff as well. With the exception of one very odd brew (I'll talk about that later), it looks as if most of these haven't made it across to the country to NY yet.  Sad. Don't they know that everything tastes better in New York?

Four Peaks Brewing Company is a brewery and beer bar located in Tempe and Scottsdale.  They make a wide assortment of beer year round with whimsical names like 8th Street Ale, Kiltlifter Scottish Style Ale, Hop Knot and The Raj IPA.  I dig it when breweries come up with imaginitive names.  I don't know where, and I don't know how, but I believe I have tried the Kiltlifter before.  The name is just so familiar to me.  Could be that I tried Kilt Lifter from Moylan's Brewery in California, but that bottle doesn't look right.  Weird, because I don't think they export to NY.  But I've found that some distributors specifically get beer they otherwise can't order through trades and the like.  Maybe that is where I tried it.  Anyway, It looks like a bunch of their beers are only available on tap at their establishments.  Too bad.  I'd love to give the Chipotle Stout a go.  Sounds delish!

Mogollon Brewing Company out of Flagstaff is another company that likes to choose whimsical names for their beers.  Horny Toad IPA, Donnybrook Irish Stout and Apache Trout Stout are just a few of their offerings.  According to their website, their beer is currently only available in Arizona.  They aren't bottling any beer, but they do can several of them.  They also claim that they are in the process of increasing their production so you may see them at a store near you sooner or later.

Oh, and the Arizona beer I mentioned earlier that IS readily available in New York? Cave Creek Chili Beer.  A truly awful beer with a chili pepper in the bottle to give it a spicy flavor.  It has it's fans, though.  I live with one of them.  Gia loves the chili beer.  Yikes!

Jimmy Bastard - "I'm from Glasgow, Scotland.  Beer me, Earl!"
I was hoping Jimmy was gonna ask to be included, because this whole idea started when I read about a local craft brewery in Scotland a couple of days ago.  Scotland has a proud history of brewing going back centuries if not millenia.  Belhaven is a Scottish Ale that most folks have tried at some point, and Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow is the oldest surviving brewery in Scotland.  They make Tennent's line of beers that are popular all over the globe.  McEwan's Scottish Ale out of Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh is another extremely popular export from Scotland.  I love a good Scottish Ale.  A bit more malty and sweet than their English counterparts.  Nothing wrong with that!

Jimmy was looking for beers brewed specifically in Glasgow, but as far as I can tell the aforementioned Wellpark Brewery is the only one.  There are, however, a couple of brewpubs that have recently popped up in Glesga, as he often calls his hometown.  The Clockwork Beer Co. on Cathcart Road serves a few of their own micro-brews in addition to a selection of beers from other breweries.  One misconception appears to be whether or not their brews are cask-conditioned.  According to one employee, all their draught beer is cask ale.  They use traditional Aiken tall fonts instead of the normal "pull" taps you normally see.  Sounds great to me! The West Brewing Company on the Glasgow Green is the other brewpub in town.  This one is fairly new and it looks like it brews mostly German-style beers.  St. Mungo is a German pilsner produced by them that I think I have actually seen or tried on this side of the Atlantic.  Hmm.

But it is BrewDog Ltd in Fraserburgh, one of the newer craft breweries in Scotland, that I really wanted to talk about.  These guys researched some of the classic beer styles from around the world and started what might be the fastest growing craft brewery in their home country.  Plenty of American-style beers show up in their stable as well, including Punk IPA, which they claim is the fastest growing alternative beer brand in the UK.  I'd love to get my hands on some of their Tokyo Imperial Stout or any of their whisky cask-aged brews like the Paradox Macallan Batch.  Big alchohol and big flavor, according to all the reviews.  I'll have to find out from Gia if any of them are available in our area.  The knock on these kids has been that they are a hip, new brewery for a hip, young crowd.  But sometimes it is okay to go with the hip, new thang.  That's what the craft beer revolution is partially about.  That and really good beer.

Bonus: Atlas Brewing LTD in Argyll and Traquair House Brewery LTD in Peeblesshire also did very well for themselves in last year's beer reviews.  So there ya go.

Phew!  That's it for now.  And only a third of the way through our reviews.  I'll finish them up over the weekend.  Hopefully.

More to come soon:  NYC (Michelle), Georgia (Savannah), Gluten-free beers (2abes), Minnesota (Jennifer), Boston, Massachusetts (Candy), Ohio (Sybil Law), Alabama (Heff), Tallahassee, Florida (Paticus)

Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. Wow, this is more work than I thought it would be.


Barlinnie said...

Very comprehensive guide indeed sir. I was wondering if you would manage to note the often quoted misconception between beer and lager.

You did it very well. Bravo.

2abes said...

you are a walking beer encylopedia! Many years ago I visited Scotland and I had my share of the local fare...it was good! I was in Edinburg, but can't remember the names of the beers I had. Also visited Germany.

Verdant Earl said...

Jimmy - I'm assuming by beer you mean ale, because lager is a type of beer. One of the two main types. Ale being the other. The difference is in the yeast. Lager yeast ferments at lower temperatures at the bottom of the vessel it is being fermented in. Ale yeast ferments at a higher temperature at the top of the brew. That's pretty much it. Lager, generally, also takes longer to ferment. Hence the term "lager" which means storing as in a cave or "lagering". Cool?

2abes - Never been to either, but I have had most of their beers. That counts. ;)

Candy's daily Dandy said...

On those Glasgow beer/larger/ale's, would these be the ones that are kept in the glass bottles that are occasionally used to "razor one's face" as Jimmy expertly describes in prose.

Just wonderin'

Jennifer and Sandi said...

Wow that was very interesting. There IS alot of beer out there to taste test.

GO BUD LIGHT! hehehehe

* Tink *

Have a Happy Father's Day Weekend!
- Jennifer

limpy99 said...

Beer me, Earl! I'm from Connecticut!

Yep, the CT part sounded just as gay as I thought it would.

Verdant Earl said...

Candy - scary stuff that razoring.

Jenn - Minnesota is on it's way!

Limpy - I dunno why, but I always thought you were from the South. I'll try to squeeze you in. Now THAT sounded gay!

Bruce Johnson said...

Adding to the beer in Arizona. Most of these brewries are in the Phoenix area. Scottsdale, Williams, Tempe, Mesa, Cave Creek are all part of the Phoenix Metro Area.....it is all one big city complex.

The Chilli-beer is for tourists only. One one in thier right mind would drink that stuff here, it is awful.

I have had my share of Kiltlifters, not a bad ale. Full bodied and redish in color. I tend to lean toward a beer called Raptor Red brewed at the Rock Bottom brewery in Scottsdale. The drink of choice for our Lotus Car club meetings each month.

Final bit of trivia. I don't know if it is still there, but there is a pub in old town Tucson, called "The Shanti", has the largest beer collection in the state. Hundreds of beers from all over the world.....I know, I have been there.....

Verdant Earl said...

Bruce - Cool. I didn't realize all those towns were part of the Phoenix area. Might be good to get out of my back yard every now and again. Rockbottoms are all over the nation, so I didn't include them as a regional beer, but they make some pretty good stuff.

Avitable said...

If I was a beer fan, this would be really cool.

Dave2 said...

Elysian cranks out quite a few good spirits, though their "brew pub" restaurants are hit and miss. I like the Capitol Hill location okay enough, but the Elysian Fields restaurant in Pioneer Square has provided two really bad dining experiences. I have no idea what the problem is, but if I ever go back it will just be for the beer!

Verdant Earl said...

Avitable - I understand. Not for everyone.

Dave2 - that sucks about the brewpubs. I'm generally not a fan of the food at those joints, but sometimes they surprise me. Had a real nice meal at a Rockbottom in Charlotte, NC once. That's about it though.