Saturday, May 30, 2009


here goes my hamsterian take on the three 2008 SAM ADAMS' LONGSHOT WINNERS:

first off, i don't mean to be sexist, but isn't it a bit cool when the ladies win the sam adams' homebrew competition? i'm not sure why that's so exciting to me. maybe it's because, other than ashley brock and e sue young and faith scott, i have not met many female beer geeks. so when carissa sweigart wins with a cranberry wit, of all things, i feel my power - my woman-power - bristle on the edges. 

okay, enough politics: let's get to the beer. this cranberry wit pours unfiltered and cloudy. very light with deep pink hues enlivened by a constant and steady stream of carbonation bubbles, looking like prom night on speed. a thin, fully laid white cap covers the top of the glass, through which no significant aromas pass. i'm sniffing for fruit, tartness, some spices, but i get nothing. the first sip is pure wit beer: light and spiced on the edges. the bottle declares "cinnamon, orange peel, coriander and grains of paradise," all before a "touch of cranberry." the first sip only reveals cinnamon in the background, like a box of red hots accidentally fell into the mash. after a little bottle-swirling, in an effort to agitate all those spices and yeasts in the bottom, the beer looks like a glass of grapefruit juice: dark pink fleshy-juice and thick cloudy yeast haze. more complex flavors shine through now. orange peels and coriander are mostly prevalent. little sign of cranberry, even tartness. however, some small wash of brightness does flow along the sides of the tongue, mellowing out the overt spiciness and making this wit extremely light and more drinkable than most beers in this genre. although i would never buy a sixer of this, i like having these two bottles for the trial. 

NOTE: my second bottle was much better. this is a very exciting beer, an amusement park of spices and fruits all crammed and roller coastering around in one glass. i told my dear friend, sir jason scott, that this beer is like a good m. night shabalabahonda film: too much to take in the first time. bright, spicy, refreshing, cloudy and full-bodied - yes, ma'am, i would definitely buy this beer in sixers and serve it at dinner parties.

so mike from california says he tossed in "over six pounds of hops per barrel" in his double-IPA (9% ABV). i'm not sure if that's a lot or not, but the aroma is as hairy as liquid sasquatch. smells like a walk in the northern woods: lots of pine, lots of earthy pitch, lots of tree-sap and bursting green. this is a transcendental aroma in a beer that wants to jump out of the glass and live as deliberately as thoreau. first sip: whitman whiskers! this thing is mowing me down. thick, thick biscuit bottom under a spicy, piney hopped top. this is a great double IPA: not too much, but definitely earning its 9% alcohol ranking. i would buy sixers and twelvers of this. hound it and hide it in my little cellar closet down here on the first floor. my hat is off to mike in california - this beer is lovely.

unfortunately, i've had my fill of german beers around these parts. and, equally unfortunate for alex drobshoff from california, texas has depleted its ideal cool evenings where such a thick and heavy beer stakes claim. still, i will come with open olfactories and taste buds. pours dark leather brown. very little head or carbonation: nothing's alive on the inside. plus, i'm not getting any aroma here. even sniffed the coffee in the kitchen to double check my sniffer, and it works, but i can't smell anything on this beer. (same as shiner bock). the first sip of drobshoff's traditional bock (6.8% ABV) weighs in syrup heavy. also, it's sweet, sweet, sweet and more sweet. lots of malt, with small gushes of cherry. why anyone would brew (or drink) a bock is beyond me. they are heavy, sticky, chewy beers. the beverage equivalent of creamed corn, without all the lumps. i'll be giving the extra bottle of this to marky-mark pepe-guzman who just loves-loves-loves him some bock. he be german, i suppose.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


so my friends ryan and kelly urban came over tonight and we're being really cool and saying stuff that regular people wish they could say on a totally awesome day but they can't but we totally just mouth-off like it's nothing cause we're awesome even on mediocre days and stuff like that and whatever, man, yo.

then we decide to have dessert. so ryan and i drive over to the mart and talk about the UNDERWORLD films which are awesome if you love them. and then at the store all the blue bell pints, which are usually $3 a piece are $1 a piece, and me and ryan totally flip. so we buy four of them. i can't remember all the ones we bought cause we were so jazzed at the time that my memory was blitzed. 

then we got home and busted open some ice cream. then i popped the top on some otter creek russian imperial stout (10.6% ABV / 65 IBUs). the bottle boasts that otter creek brews their russian imperial with "double the malt and four times the hops of regular stouts, this ale offers a robust and intense flavor experience." all crafts breweries love to throw junk like that on their bottles: whether it lives up to the hype is another matter of tastes altogether. to find out, i poured myself and ryan a (room-temperature) draught in wine glasses, and then we started sniffing. 

the otter creek russian imperial stout pours oily black, darker than big-rig engine drool. the stuff allows zero light, a liquified spelunking expedition top-side and glass-tamed. it also pours thick, more like plasma than liquid. the head holds the darkest brown cap i have ever seen on a stout, more kin to a fudge brownie than most of the frothy-cappuccino tan heads i have normally seen. this beer screams the absence of hope.

ryan swears, right off the bat, that the stuff smells like olives - and green olives at that. oddly enough, his wife confirmed the aroma. i never noticed a single olive whiff in the whole batch. after a few more sniffs, ryan declared a significant molasses aroma, cooked and maybe smoky. in the meantime, i immediately smelled raisins and anise - and tons of both. this thing smelled like a licorice bomb with a burning fuse. there may have been hearty rummagings of fig and prune notes wolloshing about in there, as well. we both agreed that this aroma was huge and somewhat threatening.

the first sip, for both of us, was overwhelming and ash-trayish. all the possible complexities and enjoyment were burned out by an intense throat-bottomed alcohol burn. ryan suggested flavors of smoked gouda lingering in the aftertaste. i agreed, but maybe more out of concentration than actual taste-budderings. 

my overall verdict for otter creek russian imperial stout is that this may be a fantastic cellar beer. those uber-hops, as declared by the label, may need 3 or 4 years to mellow out. i'm sure that in time, seasoned in dark and discipline in someone's basement, this beer could eventually emerge as a beautifully enjoyable celebration stout. however, until then, this bottle is not worth the required $7. it did not even pair well or simmer its offensiveness next to cookies-n-cream ice cream. as a result, ryan and i both agreed that this beer tasted more like a punishment than a treat. otter creek russian imperial stout lived up to its bottle-printed claims (more than i could have expected) and left me feigning for a bright and fizzy pale ale: something on the lighter side, for heaven's sake. 

in the meantime, i'm chomping at the bits to break into the 2008 sam adam's longshot sixer, newly released in these parts. that review will come very soon. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009


i'm doing some research on texas breweries for a friend of mine. spent some time reading about shiner beers today. there's a feature on the shiner website where viewers can post stories about themselves drinking shiner beer, kinda like what we do here at beer club only it's all texans and they all think shiner bock is the way into God's Kingdom. (i got tough news for them). anywho, i took a moment here just now, sipping on this PBR and feeling fine, to write up my shiner story. here's a copy of it. it ain't good and all, but it's true. and it needs more umph eventually.

ps. do NOT drink a shiner bock while reading this.


my friend mark said sometime early last summer, right around the time that we were all standing on the concrete of his bryan, texas driverway, that he'd like to celebrate his birthday by driving on down to shiner, texas and seeing that spoetzl brewery first-hand. i liked that kinda notion. as a beer-nerd, i kinda wondered if he might be trying to celebrate my birthday as well. he said no to that, but i still felt rather important coming on down to shiner in the middle of wednesday in july.

to be honest, i am not a fan of that bock that shiner sells. tastes like sweet tea with a touch of vodka in it, if you asked me. never been a bock fan. never might be a bock fan. my tasters don't lean towards the malts as much as to the hops. still, i fancy a shiner hefeweizen, when it's poured right, and i can't stop at just two shiner blondes when the sun goes to boasting even through the trees. not to mention, shiner black pours a nice glass of late night, book-reading beer when the hour ain't rightly fit to a pot of coffee but the pages need some grease to keep turning.

so, back to my buddy's birthday: we loaded up tim's car, the three of us - mark and tim and me - and we headed to gonzalez first. them boys i was with thought it might be novel to climb around in the gonzalez old-timey jail there. and we did. climbed on up the ladder and touched the noose dangling from the ceiling. i didn't like the feel in that place. felt a bit like racist ghosts were walking shouting "COME AND TAKE IT" all over the place. i think the klan might live heavy in gonzalez. not to mention, i never seen a town with so many churches. that many churches seem a sign of trying to cover a multitude of sins, like racism and running off other races and hating people who ain't white. i mean, that's just what i felt in gonzalez, particularly in that jail and when i looked at the flag they got. not good. my hair was standing up, and i was ready to get on to the beer, which i know for a fact ain't racist beer, nor is it brewed for racists. unless people in gonzalez drink shiner beer, in which case it weren't brewed for them.

drove over to shiner and found the brewery. biggest building in that part of the state. sat right over there in the corner pocket like it'd been there a hundred years or more. guess it has. and we walked in and got a nice tour. you know, the land out there in shiner is conducive to wind, and wind is conducive to dust, and dust it conducive to making things dirty. and while i may have toured half a dozen beer breweries in half a dozen states, that shiner brewery was the cleanest, most sterile beer place i ever forgot to wipe my shoes off for. felt a bit like a hospital in there. but the factory they got going, i mean, that's really impressive. my friend mark was standing there looking down into the factory, all those bottles rolling circles around the place. i said, "happy birthday, bro." he said, "i suppose so."

then they let us drink the beer. gave us three tokens each. some tall drink of scotch walks up and says, "i don't even drink beer. don't know why i'm here." and he hands me six tokens. i drank a lot of beer that day. never once touched the bock tap handle.

all in all, it was a good day. met some ghosts, saw beer get made in the cleanest facility i ever seen, and then drank half a tank of shiner black label straight off the factory tap. it was good. and i hope to on back that way soon enough.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Will shovel dirt for beer"

...towards the end of the huge dirt pile it looked like I had ordered too much dirt. A neighbor drove by and I asked if he needed some, "sure" he replied. I talked with his wife to determine where the dirt should be dumped. Baker and I hauled 5 wheelbarrow loads to their backyard.
The wife insisted that she compensate us for the hard work and the dirt. Eventually I gave in and allowed her to pay us $20 and a 6 pack of beer.

A few days later while I was mowing the lawn, my neighbor walked over with a 6er of Schlafly's Pilsner. Interesting.

I have never had their Pilsner but given the circumstances-free beer, hot outside, sweaty brow-I couldn't wait.

I enjoyed it. It tasted like a slightly better version of a Budweiser. BUT, even though there are more hops present, it has a crisper taste, and overall better flavor I think I will still stick to the Bud after a long day working in the sun. Why? $

I would rather use the money spent on a Schlafly Pilsner towards an O'Dells IPA any day.

More current news... I'm heading to Baltimore tomorrow for a wedding. While there I'll be connecting with several other beer club representatives for a taste of East Coast brews. I can't wait to post.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sometimes the best beer is Budweiser - or Miller Lite if your a Hamster

The past few days I have been breaking my back under the hot sun shoveling dirt and stacking bricks. I'm working on some landscaping. When I moved into my house a few years ago, the front yard was a blank canvas. I could do anything I wanted...from scratch. This year I'm doing something. I'm building a retaining wall that will remain level despite the slope of the earth. So one end is two blocks high, the other end is 7 blocks high. Follow me. I unloaded a 126 blocks (with help) from a truck to my garage. I had a truck load of dirt dumped in the middle of my street. I shoveled and lugged 9 cu. yards of garden mix dirt from my street to the final destination. I had too much dirt. So I found other places for the dirt (prior to having the dirt delivered I removed the top layer of earth and used the sod to build up the slop in the back of my house). Then I started to build the wall. Today I got 1/4 of the wall built.

After I unloaded the bricks, Baker and I had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was great. Hit the spot. Wonderful flavor.
Today after working on the wall, I had a Bud. Even better.

If I'm working in the sun doing some good ol' manual labor, I need a Bud. If I'm looking for something to drink after a long day at the office I need an IPA.

Sorry, this was rushed. The wife was telling me that it was her turn to get on the computer.
It made sense in my head. I had it all planned out until she came along.
I'll do better next time.

Do you agree? Bud in the sun?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


holy midwestern tap handles, batman! i got a load of reviews to report from this recent trip my smokin' hot wife and i made to kansas city. after tossing back some cold ones with mike redmond, i hit the tap handles and sixers with nathan and emily jones, kelly jackson, and thom and tracy fox. then i capped off the week's bottle by back porching, home brewing, and chihuahua sunbathing alongside sir jason scott. it was a grand few days, full of many beers, little sleep, and bookoos of trees taller than one story buildings. (texans know what i mean). 

while i recover from the travels, i'll lean on the words of the good and lovely nathan jones to review one of the beers we collected but did not sip together. lost coast's 8 ball stout (5.9% ABV) received a collected review of B+ on beeradvocate, while the ratebeer crowd (of which i'm an active member) awarded it 97/100. that's a drastic difference in populace opinion, making this stout a controversial little number, giving me one more reason to regret not sharing this brew with my friend. 

honestly, i've steered away from the lost coast line after tasting their alleycat amber, downtown brown, and great white ???????. none of these beers did anything for me except spit remorse into my pocketbook. however, beer is an odd concoction, and breweries can boil up some strange worts from time to time. also, nathan jones is a good man with a trusted palate. you'd like him. and he has great tastes in film. send him some love back on his first beerclub review when you get the chance.

(the following letter was edited by the publisher. y'all ain't gots to know all we gots to say. damn.)

*     *     *

Kevin -

I drank the Eight Ball Stout made by Lost Coast Brewery out of Eureka, CA.  I will say that I am now very disappointed that we did not get to share it.  It was not like a traditional stout.  The first taste was not the 'stout' coffee flavor that you normally get from a beer like that.  As I went through it, it just got better.  The beer was extremely smooth and flavorful.  I will say that if someone is on the fence about liking a stout, this is the one to drink to get on the wagon about loving a stout.  It was a stout with training wheels.  Anyways, I recommend you try this one and tell me what you think. 

- Nathan Jones

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I SHOT A WHALE WITH THIS BEER: edited for mixed gender viewing

if you need me, i'll be at mike's house. upstairs. at the dining table with latonya and sarah. mike is already in bed. he has to open the coffeeshop tomorrow morning. he will need to put the key in the door by 4:54 a.m. so that he can dim the alarm by 4:57 and hit "store open" on the computer by 4:59. that's his job. that's how he gets the dough to run me to the price chopper in liberty, missouri, allowing me to purchase a sixer of sierra nevada torpedo extra pale ale. and then we sip the sixer, talking about bigfoot and werewolves and God and oscar wilde and my own take on politics as evolved since the last time we discussed my take on politics. 

i told mike i voted this past year. he was surprised. rightfully so.

shit. this sierra nevada torpedo extra pale ale (7.2% ABV / 70 IBUs)  is good. really good. sierra nevada has never made a bad beer. seriously, i cut my hopped-up mandibular bilateral tori on sierra nevada pale ale, and i will love this company forever for that fact alone. sierra nevada, unfortunately, makes very few over-the-top beers to write about on websites late at night on vacation. their bigfoot barleywine comes to mind as kingish and kongish, as well as their harvest ale something-something style ale (the latter was hoppy as fruit rind, but i can't remember the full profile), but that's about it for big beers. sierra nevada saddles up next to several good american craft breweries with a consistency of okay beers and the occasional gleam of and excellent beer. 

"Utilizing the 'Hop Torpedo,' our unique method of dry-hopping, we harness precious oils and resins to showcase the complex citrus, pine and herbal flavor and aromas that hops have to offer." - as quoted from the barn-door ends of the Sierra Nevada Torpedo sixer package

did you guys know that i work at the writing center in a local community college? yes'r, i do. and there is an english teacher there that hates the word "utilize." she says, "come off it, and just say 'uses'." honestly, i can see her point. why say, as a fiction writer, "bill said emphatically . . . " when you could just say, "bill said . . . . " and then write better dialogue? it's a good question. one to consider. so it makes one wonder, when a craft brewery uses words like "utilizes," are they trying to compensate for something lacking in the magnitude of their torpedo? 

personally, i do not see that sierra nevada's torpedo lacks anything in girth of flavor. this is a big flavor beer, flushed with gushes rustic pine and citrus rinds. i like the grapefruittiness. i like the bitterness. i like the mouthfeel and the exclamation of outer-fruit cores surrounding the edges of every sip - heavy in the front, loaded in the back.

my dear and beautiful friend, sir jason scott, made my ear sweat with his description of this ale. i liked it from that conversation on. however, we do not get the biz down in bryan-f'bombing, tejas. tonight, finally, i got my taste of sierra nevada torpedo, and it was well worth the wait. i'm sad that mike is passed out for the night, and the ladies are unapplying their days make-up and hair together: this is a beer to share, a book to tote in a small nylon bag, a story to hold out extended to friends and say, "no, really, devour this, as if your life depended on it, even though you have the luxury of it not."  

i would like to sip this beer all night long, even in my sleep, and then, if i were lucky, instead of waking up with dream-dragon-poo on my tongue, like my morning breath usually lays on me, i'd wake up with this beer, solidified and blanketed across my palate, like firmly baked cheese, and i would taste this beer, naturally, in my own mouth, all f'n' day long. such an extravagance would feel like my birthday come early.

i think i will go watch DANCE OF THE DEAD now.