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Cucapa Obscura

July 20, 2010

Brewery: Cucapa Brewing Company
Beer: Cucapa Obscura, 12 oz. bottle
Style: American Brown Ale
POP: Shipment from San Diego, CA
Price: Gift exchange!

The San Diego portion of the beer trade.

A while ago my buddy Kyle and I agreed to do a beer exchange, sending beer unavailable in our respective areas to each other. (I have yet to uphold my end of the bargain. I’m on it, Kyle, I swear.) Now, I really missed Alesmith Brewing out of San Diego, so I requested a couple bombers of their brew along with a Mexican craft beer that I’d been hearing a lot about called Cucapa Obscura. I honestly didn’t know a whole lot about this beer other recommendations from a few different people in San Diego. Some searching at a couple retailers confirmed that somehow Cucapa has been trickling into the Chicago area, but I have yet to see Obscura anywhere yet.

Cucapa Obscura, an American brown ale, pours dark with a bubbly head that dissipates immediately into a thin film. It smells rich like a brown ale should, and I’m pleasantly surprised at its opaqueness and color. Very little light is getting through, leading me to believe this will be a full-bodied brown ale – one of my favorite beers.

The first taste, I’m a bit unimpressed. Huge soda-like bubbles are a bit harsh up front, but I will say that the finish is nice. That’s really about it. Any forward flavors are lost on the ultra biting carbonation.

This ain't your typical Mexican beer, kid.

Apparently it’s available on tap, though limited. I really would like to try this out of a proper draft system, hopefully smoothing out some of the bite and maybe helping out with head retention. I really do like the rest of the beer though, and as it warms and loses a bit of the carbonation, I’m liking it more. The malts have a nice flavor to them that’s too often lost in some other brown ales, which makes it even more impressive that this comes from a Mexican brewery.

Final verdict: I will buy it if I see it on draft, or maybe if it’s on sale.

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Goose Island Night Stalker

July 12, 2010

Brewery: Goose Island Beer Company
Beer: Night Stalker, 22 oz. bottle
Style: Imperial Stout
POP: Binny’s Beverage Depot, Lakeview
Price: $8.99 (?)

I’m typing this in Evernote, which is a neat piece of software that Billy Broas (of billybrew.com) has suggested. I’m using the desktop version on my laptop, but for a beer blogger on the go, the iPhone app synchs flawlessly with my account, allowing me to save photos and notes about beer all in one place. Thanks for the tip, dude!

I’ve made it known that I’m not overly impressed with most of Goose Island’s year-round offerings (save for their IPA or Sofie, which are both solid), but their special releases are second to none. Do yourself a favor and skip the 6-packs and spend your cash on a 22 of something unique from Chicago’s juggernaut of the craft beer world.

in ur neighborhoodz...drinkin' ur beerz...

Night Stalker. Is this even a good name for a beer? I dunno, probably not.

Goose Island’s Night Stalker imperial stout is an oily jet black coming out of the bottle, with a head that gradually creeps up to a finger or so but dissipates quickly. Served cool but not cold, this beer has a THICK mouthfeel with minimal carbonation. This is like drinking mud, if mud was wonderful malty goodness that got you buzzed. Or perhaps it’s more akin to the overused euphemism “like motor oil.” Either way, it’s thickness is the most defining characteristic. The flavor presents a decent amount of hops with a bit of an alcohol finish. Going along with its syrupy texture (another overused euphemism), sweet malts with a bit of carmel or molasses really round out the flavor.

Hot damn. The alcohol is even more present as the beer warms. Know how when you have a sip of whiskey and you exhale the alcohol aromas after the sip? Yeah, it’s like that. 11.2% ABV really packs a punch, and the sweet malts favor this taste as opposed to masking it. The brewer’s notes suggest aging Night Stalker for up to 5 years; with as sweet and alcoholic as this tastes only a few weeks after bottling, I can only imagine how powerful this would be after a couple years in the cellar.

Final verdict: It’s not for everyone, but if you’re in the right mood for it, not bad at all. I’d buy it again especially if it’s on sale.

Guest Blog: Stone 13th Anniversary Ale

June 24, 2010

Nothing like a good guest blog to remind this beer writer that he’s been doing too much of the former and not enough of the latter in that self-appointed title. What can I say, things got busy in student land. Although that probably pales in comparison to full time working, school attending, father of two Shayne. Plus, since I first started writing, he’s been a champion of this blog on the ol’ interwebs. That considered, I’m honored Shayne took time out to write a guest blog for me.

This is also very timely in that Stone’s 14th Anniversary Ale debuted on shelves in San Diego on Monday, June 21st – the day Shayne sent me the review of the 13th Anniversary Ale. According to Stone Illinois’ Facebook page, the midwest should start seeing this in early July.

-bwm

Brewery: Stone Brewing Company
Beer: Stone 13th Anniversary Ale, 22 oz. bottle, aged one year
Style: American Strong Ale
POP: CityWide Liquors, downtown South Bend, IN
Price: $6.99

I’ve been friends with Brian for over 15 years, which not only makes me feel old, but also makes me feel happy to know that I’ve had the pleasure to have such a good guy in my life for such a long time. When he enthusiastically told me about his beer blog, being a beer nerd/snob myself, one of the first questions I asked him was if he would accept guest writers on his blog. He said in the Brian way we have all come to know and love, “Sure, why not.”

Being a writer and good beer enthusiast, I felt like I had to have something that would be “worthy” of talking about on a beer blog. I like good beer, and I have an interesting palate, so for me to be surprised you gotta go either big, or really strange. I feel that this is a mixture of both. I have a beer fridge down in my basement full of all kinds of great, wonderful, and wild flavors that would fulfill almost every palate. From stouts and porters, to lagers and pilsners, I have a beer for every mood, meal, or attitude.  In addition to my own collection of tasty pleasures, I have friends that bring over carbonated bliss to challenge my extremely judgmental palate. This Stone 13th anniversary was one that a friend brought over that found its way into the beer fridge and somehow got hidden, tucked away, and forgotten about until almost exactly a year later. I’m sure in that year of patiently waiting it enjoyed great conversation with its American, German, and Hungarian counterparts. I’m sure it was wondering why so many had gone before it. It was hiding something fantastic for me and I’m so glad I found this one year later.

I usually don’t age many beers. I do have some New Holland Dragon’s Milk that will be a year old in August, and a couple Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA’s that I’m waiting for that special day to pop open. Other than that, it’s usually in the fridge for a pretty short time. Like I said previously, this double deuce of Stone 13th anniversary just stayed out of sight. Popping it open, I get the hoppy Stone trademark smell, with a fruity aroma. It pours as a deep amber color. The head is surprisingly thick at first, and licking like an ice cream cone I get the subtle tones of the greatness that is to come. Upon drinking cold, the hoppiness is the first taste that hits the palate. But it is quickly overtaken by a smoky fruit flavor that can best be described as smoked figs or dates. The aftertaste is the best part. The smoky fruitiness floats in your mouth as the bitter hop becomes nasal. It crescendos into a thin coating on the roof of your mouth and tongue with the flavor of what can best be described as thus:  Imagine you ate a handful of slightly bitter raisins that have been grilled or smoked for a long time and set out to cool. Then imagine the juices that would explode in your mouth as you bit into them. Throw some slight carbonation in to add flare to the party, and this is the experience you get. It is wonderful. It gets even better as it warms when the smoky fruitiness takes over and you’re left smiling after every sip and savor.

I found it amusing that after I disposed of this fantastic flavor explosion, I scanned the bottle for the alcohol content, (It’s 9.5% ABV, probably more after a year in the fridge but hey…) and it said clearly on the bottle, DO NOT CELLAR, ENJOY IN 2009. I didn’t exactly cellar it, since it was in a cold fridge for over a year, but still funny. I raise my glass and toast. Here’s to not reading the sides of bottles and enjoying the happy surprises that are hidden and tucked away for occasions such as guest writers on a good friend’s blog. Cheers.

–Shayne Golden

Brasserie d’Achouffe McChouffe

May 3, 2010

Brewery: Brasserie D’Achouffe
Beer:
McChouffe, on draft
Style:
Belgian Dark Strong Ale
POP:
Map Room, Chicago
Price:
$6

They say not to mix business with pleasure, and I’ve always subscribed to keeping work and personal life separate. But that may be changing for a few reasons. First of all, in today’s increasingly freelance / e-commute / contract worker economy (well, at least in my field), that line is constantly blurred. There’s really no such thing as “work hours” or “free time”. If you are pursuing your passion, you’re never “off”. Complementary though, a mobile workforce allows for flexible scheduling during the typical workday.

And that’s why I’m writing this in a bar, the very first of a few informal meetings I hope to be hosting here at the Map Room. I’m billing it as a New Media Studies study table / coworking session and inviting people from my graduate program to converse ideas about anything media related. Professionals in a social setting, talking about their profession, socially. Follow that, and you get the idea.

Since it’s $1 off Belgians today, I’m rockin’ the McChouffe ale.

It pours a hearty brown color with a frothy off-white head. The head sticks around for quite a while, leaving a good bit of lacing that hangs around through the entire beer. The taste is pretty hearty – nicely spiced, but not overbearing. The Belgian yeast strains are smooth and subtle as well, but still weigh on the palate like a Belgian should.

The interesting thing about this one is that the flavor changes very little with the temperature. I sipped this one slowly (I mean, I did bike here after all) and warming doesn’t bring out any overly sweet flavors, extra spices, or even a different mouthfeel. This is neither good nor bad in my book; it’s just different.

Final verdict: Since I’ll be here every Monday for $1 off Belgians, I can see the McChouffe as a standby. I’d definitely buy it again.

Guest blog: Lost Abbey Judgement Day

May 2, 2010

This guest blog comes courtesy of NappyWhiteKid (aka John Guiney) of Olde School Honour. Despite taking forever to finally post this (John sent it to me about two months ago), a blog about Lost Abbey is rather timely, with the recent news that the Lost Abbey/Port tasting room has been temporarily shut down by the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health. Without trying to editorialize too much, I find it odd that wineries and distilleries with tasting rooms in California are exempt from the regulations that have shut down Lost Abbey’s tasting room. Though the folks at Lost Abbey may not agree with me (see their emotionally fueled blogs here and here), I understand the push for health regulation at a tasting room. But considering the other exemptions, a cease and desist seems crippling and excessive.
-bwm

Brewery: The Lost Abbey/Port Brewing Company, San Marcos CA
Beer
: The Lost Abbey, Judgment Day Ale,750ml corked bottle
Style
: Belgian Dark Quad Ale
POP
: BevMo, Mission Valley, San Diego
Price
: $8.99

Okay, so as a disclaimer, I never really go to BevMo and tonight I only went with one thing in mind: St. John’s Brewery Beer. But when the clerk said that they no longer carried the brand, I had to make a quick decision. I turned around and saw the four horseman staring me in the face, and they were right; it was Judgment Day.

At 10.5% ABV, I knew that this was going to be sweeter, but I thought “it’s chilly in San Diego tonight, so what the hell.”

The bottle said Ale Brewed with Raisins, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. With one “PoP!” it was judgment day. The beer pours thick, almost syrupy, a dark molasses in color. Judgment Day is black sitting in my SDBW taster glass. It foams up quickly on the pour, and then settles to a head of about one and a half fingers. Not overly carbonated, the head settles quickly.

With an aroma that resembles coffee, your mouth is bombarded with flavors on the first sip, and you know you’re drinking a strong, malty ale. The malt flavor mixed with the raisins gives a fruity hint without being offensive. Not as sweet as a barley wine, this beer definitely lives “an interesting life”.

The top few sips are smooth, yet strong. As you progress through Judgment Day, the end nears and it begins to get more serious. The main body of the beer retains an almost raisin/coffee flavor. The last few sips resemble a smooth whiskey, as the flavor tends to linger. With 10.5 % ABV, you have to expect that Judgment Day isn’t something to be taken “Lite”-ly.

Final Verdict: I know that on Judgment Day, this won’t be the last beer I reach for, but ya know what? Live an interesting life. Try it. Don’t go to it after drinking lighter beers all night, but for a sipping beer after a long day of work and classes, I’m not shaking my dreads in disappointment. Thanks for the excuse to drink a good beer.

Three Floyds Dark Lord – Dark Lord Day 2010

April 28, 2010

We came. We saw. Conquered? That’s debatable.

Yes, Dark Lord Day 2010 was of course the biggest DLD ever, reportedly reaching the anticipated 8,000 attendee mark. Chances are, if you’re reading this you’ve already read a few other posts by other more motivated bloggers (and even paid journalists!) about the successes and (mostly) perils of Dark Lord Day 2010. If not, I will break it down quickly.

First beers from the cooler.

1a. The bottle limit fiasco. Those with golden tickets were initially allowed a four bottle limit. That lasted from the on-sale at 11am until about 3pm, when they bumped it down to three.
1b. How it got bumped down to three I have no idea, because there were quite a few people (like me) who took advantage of the 2009 Dark Lord sale – which counted towards your bottle limit. I thought that was pretty lame too.
1c. I get that they’re trying to be mysterious and secretive, but when you’re having a cash-only sale that people are traveling for, it’s common courtesy to give folks a bit of a heads up and not rely on the (unreliable) rumor mill. (Seriously, I heard “confirmed” reports of the limit being 6, 4, 3, 8, and 12 bottles. 12. And this was about 10 minutes before the sale started.)

2. I know that it grows every year, but this year the actual attendance was almost exactly what they predicted. The parking directions, food tents, draft beer tents, and bathrooms did not match this. I would cut some slack if 25% more people showed up than initially planned, but this was not the case.

3. That which was not experienced. The guest taps were pretty hard to find, buried between the bathrooms and one of the tasting tables. (I initially thought it was a tasting table.) Thus – I missed out on all of them. Additionally, I have no idea how we were supposed to see any of the bands, as the only time I was inside the brewery was to purchase my bottle allotment and get shooed out. From what I understand, Monotoix was there, which would have completely blown me away.

Joe, The Beer Student, and Dark Lord 2010

My friend Joe picked me and Brad up a couple miles down the road and drove us in. I didn’t bring anything to share…the guest tap list was incredible, and I don’t have any rare beers cellared to share. Joe, however, brought a pretty epic cooler, containing Tyranena Porter, Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, which is one of my favorite beers, a saison that we compared to the 3 Floyds Rabbid Rabbit, and a homebrewed smoked porter among others. Oh, and a Dark Lord ’08. We’ll get to that in a minute.

L to R: '08, '09, '10 Dark Lord

Having the cooler (and cups) turned out to be pretty clutch, as it took us about 3 hours to snake to the front of the line. (At which point, it merged with another line, a food line, and a bathroom line.) The most impressive thing to me was the sheer array of beers that people had brought to share. Though I didn’t try to wander around and mooch/trade beer with people, it was definitely there for the drinking. I did have some barrel aged Dark Lord though. And like most barrel aged beers, I found the whiskey flavor too overpowering. The community aspect of this event is second to none. It’s been said many times before: beer people are good people.

On to the Dark Lord. I should preface this by saying I’ve never had any year’s Dark Lord before. (Remember, lived on the West Coast since 2005.) But I knew to expect a heavy, viscous Russian Imperial Stout. Of course, the 2010 delivered as promised. Each golden ticket secured its owner a half-glass sample of the beer, and we also split a couple full pours as well. Honestly, it was a lot sweeter than I thought it would be – molasses, dark fruits, and sweeter malts are the most present flavors. Not a whole lot in the coffee/chocolate realm, which was a bit disappointing, but I guess that’s not really FFF’s thing. The hops are there, as is a pretty powerful alcohol finish. In most beers it would be out of place, but on something like this it seemed to fit.

Side-by-side comparison between '08 and '10 Dark Lord

As for the 2008, aging really brought out the alcohol bite. The finish on this one was huge – almost overpowering. The 2010 in comparison had a much cleaner finish and aftertaste, but if you’re really looking for a (tasty) punch in the gut, an aged Dark Lord may be the way to go.

So is this beer worthy of paying a $10 charitable donation, $15 per bottle, and waiting in line for 3 hours at a place that’s an hour’s drive away? No, it really isn’t. Not the beer alone. But the actual event – beervana, as some have called it – makes the experience. It was not the smoothest or most well planned thing ever, but again, beer people are good people. The event is what you make of it, and pretty much everyone there was in the proper mindset. I’ll probably be back next year.

Dark Lord Day 2010 – The Pre-Blog

April 23, 2010

The time is upon us. I’ll be attending my first ever Three Floyds Dark Lord Day on Saturday.

I've got a golden ticket... (Apologies to Ducky; props if you know what I'm talking about.)

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, you n00b. I’ve gone to like 5 of these. Where were you all this time?” Well, I’ve been living in California, that’s where. Three Floyds unfortunately does not distribute there. But I do chuckle when I see people looking for trades asking for Russian River’s Pliny The Elder, which the bar closest to my old apartment in San Diego had for $3 on Monday nights. Different parts of the country get different stuff. C’est la vie. Now, Pliny hasn’t touched my lips for 7 months or so, but an allotment of one of the most badass Russian Imperial Stouts will be mine tomorrow.Weep, Californians. Weep.

BeerNews.org has a good post here with some links to more Dark Lord Day info. The highlight, of course, being that this year’s Dark Lord is rumored to be a 15% ABV monster that packs 700 calories into a 22oz. bottle. Wow.

My camera is duct-taped up and ready to go, so hopefully I’ll take some good photos and have a nice media rich post-event blog. Until then, cheers!