While I was traveling this month I missed the release of Almanac Beer Company's new series of California Table Beers, but that doesn't mean you should miss the beers, which are now selling in four-packs at Whole Foods, Bev Mo, and specialty beer shops around the Bay Area.
'One Big Bottle' on Serious Eats
Ska Brewing Company of Durango, Colorado, is on a campaign to encourage year-round stout drinking: they're releasing a new stout for each of the four seasons. Will that mean citrusy stouts for summer and peppermint stouts for winter? We'll see, but I like the idea of adapting the style for every type of weather. The first release is this Saturday, 9/22, and it's a milk stout brewed with ancho, guajillo, and Anaheim chiles, plus cocoa nibs, cumin, cloves, and cinnamon. Ska's Autumnal Mole Stout will be available everywhere Ska is distributed.
This beer is the sixth edition of the De Proef Brewmaster's Collaboration Series. The Belgian brewer collaborated with Hair of the Dog's Alan Sprints at De Proef to create a blend of Flanders-sourced lambic with a collaboratively-brewed version of Hair of the Dog Fred (a Golden Strong ale.) If you're in Portland this week, you can taste Flanders Fred alongside its base beers at Belmont Station on Tuesday, August 28th.
This single-hop pale ale from Russian River Brewing Company is named for the location in the experimental hop yard where Simcoe hops were developed.
Though wild yeasts are gaining a good deal of traction in the U.S., straight-ahead sour ales from American breweries are still few. Sure, there's Brettanomyces this and wild that, but often they're a lefthand tweak on a brewery's existing beer or style. Ithaca Beer Co.'s Brute is one of the few, and a fine one at that. It's definitely in the top tier of American sour ales.
Many brewers still bristle at the idea of intentionally allowing wild yeast into their breweries for fear of contamination, but Chad Yakobson, the brewer behind Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project has rolled out the welcome mat. Yakobson launched Crooked Stave earlier this year, brewing Brettanomyces-focused beers in Fort Collins, Colorado, with the goal of expanding the expectations of what the wild yeast can bring to beer.
Almost every time I decide to try another Black IPA, I end up wanting to brush my tongue. The two-pronged aggressive bitterness of hops and roast often clashes like a couple of guitarists trying to play over one another. New Glarus Brewing Co.'s Black Top Black IPA, which won gold at GABF this year, takes a more measured approach.
With all due respect to a proper, hesitantly spiced pumpkin ale, fresh (or "wet") hop beers are my harvest beers of choice. Fresh hops have a damp, almost-still-alive character that's lost when the hop cones are dried and stored, and I've yet to see their flavor reproduced another way. When brewing these beers, there's often no more than a matter of hours between the time the hops are picked and when they're added to the brew kettle.
I've been a fan of Brian Strumke's beers since the first time I tried Cellar Door, his white sage-laced Saison. Never beholden to the DuPont gold standard that many stylists cling to as the only true expression of a Saison, his beers are playful, creative, and often remarkable. So when I saw he was releasing a small portion of his flagship Stateside Saison that had been aged in Chardonnay barrels along with multiple strains of Brettanomyces, even the price tag (about $13 for 11.2 oz was the cheapest I was able to find it) wasn't enough to calm my curiosity.
The San Diego stalwarts have always seemed to be more comfortable leaning on the big, bold, and sometimes brash side of the craft beer spectrum. Their latest creation, Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA, is no exception. If this isn't your last beer of the evening, it'll most certainly be the last one you taste.
Every spring Stone Brewing Co. makes a homebrewer's dream come true. The winner of their annual homebrew contest gets the chance to scale up their recipe for the brewery's 120-barrel system and see their beer put on shelves across the country. Jason Fields and Kevin Sheppard took the prize this year with their decadent cherry chocolate stout. To round out the collaborative trio, Stone invited Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's Tröegs Brewing Co. (whose Mad Elf packs in an obscene amount of cherry flavor every holiday season) to join in the brewing process.
The initial aromatic burst of ripe mango aside, this collaboration IPA isn't a typical citrus-and-resin West Coast hop bomb. Instead, there's a pungent layering of spicy and herbal hops. The slightly sweet, vegetal quality of the Sencha tea added during dry-hopping gives complexity and becomes more prominent as the beer warms a bit
The first sip of Cran-bic sets it apart from New Glarus' other terrific fruit beers. While the brewery's Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart are object lessons in how much fresh fruit flavor a brewer can pack into one bottle, Cran-bic does that and takes a sour step further.
I'm on the record as a Fat Tire fan, and I'll still almost always order it whenever I find myself in a market that carries it. So naturally when I heard that New Belgium Brewing Co. was celebrating its 20-year anniversary by reimagining Fat Tire as part of their Lips of Faith series, I special ordered some as soon as I heard it'd hit shelves.
Every time I find myself in a Whole Foods out west, I fall into a fit of beer-jealousy. The beers you West Coasters can buy! At the grocery store! I picked up a little Russian River Consecration and this guy, a bomber of 6.5% ABV IPA from a Bend Brewery I've been hearing good things about.
This Northwest Sour Ale started as a blend of strong dark porters aged in oak, wine and bourbon barrels, then blended with a dark porter that was brewed with vanilla beans and cinnamon. The blend was then aged an additional 14 months with dates.
In the glass Funkwerks White presents a near-perfect image of a Belgian Witbier. Its hazy, pale lemon body supports a big, pillowy white head. The beer, one of the initial offerings from the Saison-focused Fort Collins, Colorado, brewery, was created using all organic ingredients.
This double brown ale was aged in the barrels that Odell uses for their Woodcut series, and dosed with Brettanomyces for secondary fermentation. It's 10% alcohol, but quite smooth and creamy.
This special seasonally-produced stout from Schlafly Beer in St. Louis pours a nearly-opaque mahogany with a milk-chocolate-colored head. It's rich with sweet mocha flavor and a slightly nutty roast.