Monday, June 27, 2011

Stone's Sour Fest 2011

I had the opportunity to attend Stone's Sour Fest, one of their events featuring sour beers from around the world. Sour beer is a beer style characterized by an acidic, tart, and of course a sour taste. The style has increased in popularity but remains somewhat of a niche style. Souring is achieved through certain yeast strains like brettanomyces or bacteria like lactobacillus or pediococcus. Sour beers can be difficult to brew however, and breweries must be willing to commit the space and expenses and then patiently wait for an unpredictable aging process. I'd like to state that the final product is well worth it.

Maybe even less than 10 years ago, domestic sours were nonexistent. But now there is a vast lineup of American brewers who have stepped into this territory. Stone helped bring them along with many international breweries all together yesterday. They featured most of the sours from New Belgium's Lips of Faith series; La Folie being the first to fill my sour-beer void some years ago. Always a favorite, the Russian River wild ales were on draft as well. The Bruery has been put in the spot-light for their sours lately. I appreciate that they have been making them accessible as well as delicious (and close to us Orange Countians). From these breweries, I wouldn't expect less. I already know they make good stuff. They have all presented me with some of the best beers I've had and therefore will have a special place in my little heart. But like all Stone events I've attended, Stone brings beers I'd never get to try otherwise.

The beer I kept coming back to was by Craftsmen. I had both the 2010 and 2011 Sour Lavender. Oh-my-gosh. The aroma was of course - lavender - along with some spiciness. The taste was sweet, sour, and herbal. Both batches had the same undertone of flavors, but the older one more rounded and mellow in sourness. It was one of the more unique beers I've had the chance to taste and I REALLY recommend it.

Another great taster came from one of the breweries in our lineup, Grand Teton. Their Sourgrass was one to remember. I think it'd be safe to say my significant other was in love with this one, whom had maybe three rounds of it. Behind the citric-sourness was an earthy feel that contrasted itself from most of the sours having fruity profiles. Recommended as well.

For those who have yet to try a sour, I'd say give it a try. For me, it was love at first sip but it does take some getting used to for it does not taste like your "average" beer. But isn't that the point of craft beer, going above and beyond what one may expect? So taste outside the box and explore the off-beaten-path brews that are gaining popularity or deserving of an initiation.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lindemans/Mikes Bday

Sunday is our boss' birthday so we're decorating while he's gone and we just finished making a disaster out of his office. Confetti EVERYWHERE. Ha he actually just parked and is walking up, HA! Well, needless to say we got him some yummy Lindemans raspberry framboise to celebrate with. I'll finish this up after the surprise....


Ok I'm back, mission accomplished. The first thing he noticed was the tinsel that got stuck in his air purifier that was making funny noises. We enjoyed the Lindemans inside the office and let me tell you, it really satisfied. Also from previous experience, if you want to up the ante, mix in a chocolate stout. The fruity acidity contrasts with the smooth chocolaty feel creating a delectable dessert in a glass. Thanks for helping us celebrate, Lindemans!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Evans Premium Lager

Next time you buy your six-pack of beer, I'd press you to try Evans Premium Lager. With its sleek silver packaging, Evans has emerged as a new modern session beer. Created after an interesting trip to Mexico and meeting a man that broadened his knowledge and enthusiasm towards beer, Evan created a beer that exceeded his expectations of what he wanted his beer to taste like.

The first batch he fashioned would be the face of Evans Lager. “The Original” has Caramel, Munich and Pilsner malts from the US and Germany that gives the Original its full bodied feel and taste. Accompanied with a light floral aroma and a true golden color, Evans delivers what he had wanted.

“The Black” is what I’ll be patiently be waiting for. It has Chocolate, Espresso and Black malts that give it a distinctly smooth chocolate body with a light espresso after-taste without that heavy feel. 

Also, boys. He has Evans Angels.

Monday, June 20, 2011

El Segundo Brewing – Home of Blue House Ales

Los Angeles hasn't been known for its craft beer scene, despite its fast-paced and creative residents. That may be coming to a halt, fortunately for us Southern Californians. One of the new up-and-comers is the El Segundo Brewing Company. We appreciate that they helping push the door wider for good craft beer in LA.

Their first beer available to the public was their Blue House Pale Ale. They say that although not over the top hoppy, the aroma from hops is still obvious in the beer and there is no mistake that this is pure west coast craft. It is intended to be a drinkable beer that will be liked by craft brew enthusiasts as well as being very accessible.

Blue House IPA is the second offering. It has a special malt that provides a maltiness that makes it a bit
more delicate than some contemporary IPAs for those who don't like the harsh hoppyness. The two sound dee-lish and they are making plenty of other styles of beer as they settle in. Try these guys at Taste of Brews!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Magic Hat in Long Beach

If you follow Magic Hat on Twitter or Facebook, its easy to see these guys have quite the sense of humor. They are an intriguing brand of beer with their trippy beer artwork and flavors to match. There is a problem however. The Magic hat line is unavailable in California, or most of it. That'll make Taste of Brews all the more awesome, because as you might have guessed, they will be there!

Their popular #9 is a staple on the East Coast but only until recently have they infringed on the West Coast. It is a "Not-Quite Pale Ale" that is described as "an ale whose mysterious and unusual palate will swirl across your tongue and ask more questions than it answers. A sort of dry, crisp, refreshing, not-quite pale ale. #9 is really impossible to describe because there's never been anything else quite like it." Their Summer beer is called WackoThe Liquid Song of Summer. "Wacko is the liquid song of summer: Crisp like the morning, cool like the evening and quenching all day long. Pop the top and set your summer loose. Wacko is a delicious summer beer with a big malty aroma, a subdued hop bite and a clean, slightly sweet finish". Excited now, aren't ya?

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Belgian Brews

This weekend I went to Las Vegas with some pals. Lemme tell you, it is harder to find good beers in Vegas than it is to get on a guest list. Luckily, there was good news when I arrived back into work today. We got a couple great Belgian beers on board this weekend. Maybe some you've heard of? If not, you'll be glad to be enlightened of these brews. Belgian beers are one of my favorite styles, for their malty sweetness and unique flavors. These are must tries:

Stella Artois is a classic Belgian lager, golden in color with exceptional clarity and a spicy hop character.  Stella Artois should be served between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit using a nine-step process called the Belgian Pouring Ritual.  In Belgium, every beer has its own unique glass designed to highlight the brand’s special flavor, and Stella Artois is no exception.  The Stella Artois chalice is designed to ensure that the head foams perfectly and the aroma is preserved.

Hoegaarden, a Belgian White Ale brewed with real Curacao orange peel with a hint of coriander, has a unique, refreshing flavor and spicy nose.  Brewing has been an integral part of life in the village of Hoegaarden, Belgium, since 1318.  By the 15th century, Begarden monks settled in the area and began brewing Belgian white (or wit) ales.  By the end of the 19th Century, the village boasted more than 35 breweries, although it was inhabited by only 2,000 people.  Hoegaarden Witbier – biere blanche, the original Belgian White Beer, is renowned in Belgium and all over the world.

Leffe Blonde is an authentic and respected Belgian “Abbey” beer, a category almost exclusive to Belgium.  Leffe Blonde is a dry, fruity and lightly spiced ale featuring a perfect balance of strength and subtlety.  The bitterness is delicate, extending over the whole palate and lingering as a subtle aftertaste.  The rich brewing tradition of the Leffe beers dates back more than 700 years to the Abbey Notre Dame de Leffe, founded in 1152.  The monks of St. Norbert began brewing this beer in 1240 for the community and for passing travelers.  Leffe beers continued to flow throughout the quiet Belgian countryside until the Abbey was abolished after the French Revolution.  The monks eventually formed an agreement with the brewer Albert Lootvoot to re-launch Leffe.

Shock Top Belgian White is a medium-bodied, unfiltered Belgian-style wheat ale, brewed with orange, lemon and lime peels and coriander. The result is a smooth, citrus mouthfeel and a naturally cloudy, light golden color.

Shock Top Raspberry Wheat has the refreshing and smooth taste of Shock Top Belgian White, with a hint of raspberry flavor.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Leinie Summer Shandy

We're in June Gloom mode. For example, it was sprinkling in Costa Mesa the other day while I was driving home. I tend to forget that just because I'm out from school, it doesn't necessarily equal summer and the weather that goes with it. Luckily, summer really is just around the corner. Hopefully next month? Week? We'll see. But as soon as we are able to start the daily BBQ's and laying out at the beach, I will be grabbing myself some Leinie brews. One of the beers they are nice enough to supply us if their Summer Shandy. A shandy is actually a mixed drink made from beer - typically Pilsner - and lemonade. For this premade shandy Leinenkugel used and American style wheat beer with natural lemonade flavor.

A decent amount of ale sweetness comes through, enough to balance the lemon taste. Each batch is carefully brewed using the finest wheat, malted barley, and just a hint of real Wisconsin honey. Then the brewmasters mix in fresh lemonade and citrus flavors to create an adventurous taste that’s perfect for those lazy days of hot sunny weather.The tart lemon flavoring of this shandy-style beer complements spicy and robust summertime grilling recipes. It is a seasonal beer that is only available April through August, so we are glad to be able to supply it at Taste of Brews before it goes back into hiding!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lhasa Beer!

Lhasa Beer USA imports Lhasa Beer from a Chinese business, the Lhasa Brewing Company Limited, based in Tibet. They make a sweet malty lager but what’s really interesting is the background information on the brewery and beer culture of the area.

Last summer I took a trip with my friends to China, and an immediate realization was that beer was inexistent as far as I could tell.  Despite the lack of beer, there was a plethora of rice wines with incredibly high alcohol content and cheap prices (1-5 US dollars). This made it evident that alcohol wasn't an issue at all. History shows that beer had been around about nine thousand years but then lost prominence to Huangjiu, the yellow liquor I mentioned. 

I remembered what one of my professors had said. He told us that drinking carries much more cultural significance in China than it does here in America. If you were to attend any type of meeting, you will be expected to drink. There is a deep cultural significance in toasting, drinking, and eating with company in order to build relationships. You are also never to refuse a toast because you will lose face and show disrespect to your host. We did come across this often, but only once toasting with beer (Corona's to be exact) along with students at Nanjing University. 

With more research, I found out that there is actually a good handful of brewers in China, so they do exist.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of China's breweries serve only their local vicinity. Only a few brewpubs exist in China, mostly in major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing which have a resident western community and carry beers that we're already familiar with. Lhasa is one of the few beers that is brewed in China, and available in the US for us to try.

Lhasa Beer is an all-natural, all-malt lager beer made with Himalayan Spring Water, Saaz hops, yeast, and Tibetan barley. The native Tibetan barley, unlike most barley varieties in the world, has no hull. Thus it adds to the beer's body and gives it an extra dimension of flavor while eliminating some of the undesirable astringency that can come from the grain hulls. Dzambuling, the US company that imports Lhasa, is helping the Tibetan people, pointing out that 72% of Lhasa’s employees are ethnic Tibetans and that 10% of the company’s profits are donated to support philanthropic intervention in Tibet. Do a good deed and try out Lhasa Beer.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Black Market Brews

I am loving that there has been an exponential growth in available places to drink good beer within the past few years, as most of you agree. One place you should surely visit if you haven't is The Bottle Room. They often feature brews from Black Market Brewing Co, another contributor in our line-up as you could have guessed. 

I went with something different from what I'd usually lean towards, their Rye IPA. This gold medal winning beer doesn't have the aggressive hops that I tend to avoid (just not my preference!) and instead has a smooth softness. Another added dimension in this IPA is the dry spiciness thanks to the rye. Rye as in whiskey; maybe that makes for a better flavor "visual". It is most definitely an IPA, but the sweet-n-spicy profile balances against the sharp piney hops. Writing this post is actually making me crave one badly and asap... I really enjoyed this beer and was glad I stepped out of my stout-box.  You all will get to see them at Taste of Brews on August 20th fortunately!