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Double Feature: Animated Stouts

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Does TRON: Legacy count as an animated film? There is certainly a ton of animation in the film. Even some of the supposedly "human" characters are animated (notably the pre-disappearance Flynn and CLU), albeit sometimes poorly (you can see that uncanny valley effect quite clearly on a couple of occasions). Well anyway, I went in with very low expectations that were thus met. It was entertaining and pretty to look at, and the music was awesome, which is about all I could ask of it. This iRi post gets at one of the things I really like about TRON (the way the grid seems so alien), but I have to say that the effects described in that post are probably less pronounced in the sequel (in particular, I was disappointed by the light-bikes). The other film of my double-feature (and the only one I was actually drinking during) was Despicable Me, which had a few really funny moments (and I love the minions), but which is ultimately nothing too special. As kids animation goes, it's no Pixar, but it's probably a step above average.

I've never really been a fan of Stouts and when I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to do was better familiarize myself with the style. I took a bit of a detour into Belgian Strong Darks during the holidays, so I have a bunch of Stouts that I've been buying that have been sitting in my fridge or on my shelf waiting. They're certainly good winter beers, though I wouldn't recommend drinking a stout while watching an animated kids movie. Kinda weird, actually, but that's what I did:

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout - Pours an opaque black color with a small, relatively light colored head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smells a bit on the roasty side with some nice maltiness coming through, maybe even some caramel. There's only a very light roastiness in the taste though, which is instead dominated by rich chocolaty flavors, some of that caramel, and a solid malty sweetness. There's some bitterness there too, but it's dry, like dark chocolate. Indeed, this is almost like drinking a good dark chocolate. It's a full bodied brew with surprisingly good carbonation given the small head and high alcohol, which makes one heck of a smooth, drinkable beer (a bit dangerous when it comes in at 10% alcohol!) I get the feeling that lesser breweries would totally screw something like this up. All of the complex elements here are very well balanced. As I said, I'm not much of a stout drinker, but this one is probably the best I've ever had. I don't think that will last, but it's still an impressive effort from Brooklyn (and my new favorite beer from that brewery). A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Founders Breakfast Stout - Before I get into this one, a disclaimer: I don't drink coffee. I wouldn't say that I hate coffee, but I don't particularly like it either. So while this beer is currently ranked on BA as the 7th best beer on the planet, I am not likely to enjoy it quite so much. So if one of my three readers happens to be a beer nerd, be forewarned, I'm gonna rate this one relatively low. Like the Brooklyn, it pours an opaque black color, with a bigger, darker colored but still light brown head. Some lacing apparent, but not as much as the Brooklyn. Smells much more roasty with some coffee thrown in for good measure. Now, I do usually like the smell of coffee, but this beer isn't really doing much for me on that front, which I find odd. The taste is also dominated by roasty coffee flavors. There's some malt sweetness there too, maybe chocolate, but it's overpowered by the coffee. There's a complexity in the taste, but I just can't get past the coffee. As far as mouthfeel goes, it's got good carbonation and a nice full body. A little less smooth than the Brooklyn stout, but still quite drinkable (assuming you like coffee). Really, this just ain't my style of beer. I'm glad I tried it and it's certainly not a poorly crafted beer, I just don't like coffee... If you do, you'll probably love it. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

So there you have it. I loved one and didn't care for the other. I'm looking forward to some of the other stouts I have waiting in the wings though, including one from Stone and, given my taste it should not be surprising that I have some Belgian-style darks that are kinda pretending to be stouts, like Allagash Black and Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence (which says it's a stout on the bottle, but is classified as a Belgian Dark on BA).

Double Feature: Hoppyness is Happiness

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I'm still catching up on 2010 movies, and this weekend's double feature was the relatively interesting duo of Valhalla Rising and Triangle. Now, I have no idea what Valhalla Rising is supposed to be about, but it's a beautiful, if surprisingly violent film featuring a one-eyed, mute Mads Mikkelsen. I'm not sure what to make of Nicolas Winding Refn, but the dude knows how to photograph stuff and and is always interesting, if perhaps a bit too artsy-fartsy (then again, this is a movie where someone armed only with an old arrowhead kills 5 people, in one case using the weapon to graphically disembowel an enemy that's tied up - hardly the usual artsy-fartsy style). Triangle is more conventionally filmed, but in the end, it's also pretty damn messed up. I will leave it at that for now, though I will say that fans of Nacho Vigalondo's (second best director name ever) Timecrimes would probably enjoy this movie (it's not quite a time-travel story, but there's a sorta recursion going on that will be familiar to time-travel fans). I'm on the fence as to whether Triangle will make the top 10 (i.e. it might be nice to have a film on my top 10 that's a little more obscure than the usual suspects), but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Speaking of enjoyment, I took the opportunity to check out two recent IPA purchases. Interestingly, this marks the third occasion that I've done an IPA double feature, which is interesting. I seem to like IPAs better when drinking different varieties together. Go figure.

Dogfish Head Burton Baton

Dogfish Head Burton Baton: There's always a story behind the Dognfish Head beers, and this one is no exception, though the story isn't on their website (at least, not in the obvious place for it). I had to resort to an interview with Sam Calagione to find the origins of this beer. It's an homage to an old IPA beer brewed in the 1950s and 1960s by an east coast brewery called Ballantine which was called Burton Ale, itself a tribute to the English town of Burton (apparently a big brewing town - home of Bass ale, among others). The original Burton ale was a blend of different batches that was aged in wood for complexity, and thus so is Dogfish Head's beer. The "baton" part of it's name is not directly explained, but then, it probably doesn't need to be - there are several meanings that fit here, so I'll leave it at that.

It pours a nice amber orange color with about a finger of head and some lacing as I drank. Smells fantastic. Clean and crisp, with some floral hops, maybe some pine, and a little bit of citrus. Taste starts of smooth and sweet, followed by a bite in the bready middle as the bitter hops and alcohol hit, and the finish is surprisingly sweet and sticky. There is some booziness here, which is to be expected from such a high ABV beer, but it's not overpowering or cloying. The sticky finish makes this a good sipping beer, something you need to let linger a bit. Interestingly, some of that hoppy bitterness returns. As it warms, things seem to mellow a bit, which makes it even more drinkable. It reminds me a bit of Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA, but it's a little looser and wilder than that (exceptional) beer. I'm rating it slightly lower than the 90 Minute, but perhaps another double feature is in order to really determine the winner... In any case, it's another excellent brew from Dogfish Head. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Palate cleansed with some Buffalo wings. Yeah, I know, not exactly great for the palate, but wings and IPAs go together well.

Victory Hop Wallop

Victory Hop Wallop: Interestingly, the label on this one also features a story about the legend of Horace "hop" Wallop.

Horace 'Hop' Wallop headed west a broken man. For in the city of Blues a Miss LuLu Bell Lager had left him thirsting for more. Drawn by wild tales of riches to be had in the gold mines, Hop pressed on westward. His last nickel spent on a prospecting pan, Hop's hunger got the best of him. Two fistfuls of barely and three of some wild and wayward hops tossed in a pan with some clear water was to be his meal. But sleep overcame him and he later awoke to a bubbling cacophonous concoction. Overjoyed with the beautiful ale he had made, Hop realized the secret of the green gold he had discovered in those fresh hops. Celebrated far and wide, Hop Wallop lives on this vivid ale with his words, "Hoppyness is Happiness". Enjoy!
I have no idea if there really was a gold-prospector named Horace Wallop, nor do I know if he accidentally made some IPA wort with his prospecting pan (nor if he looks like the cartoon on the typically well designed label), but it's a wonderful story nonetheless. It pours a lighter, hazy yellow/gold color. Not a lot of head on it. Smells very different. Some sweet malty smells with the floral hops almost buried, but a lot of citrus coming through (I initially got the impression of oranges). Very smooth mouthfeel, with a much smaller bite and a dry, bitter finish. Not as much carbonation as the Burton Baton, but I wouldn't say it's bad. A very different taste, maybe a bit less complex, but still very good. There's something distinctive about it that I can't quite place, but it's enjoyable. Graprefruit, maybe? There is a tartness to it, and when combined with the citrus, I guess that does mean Grapefruit. (Looking at BA, it seems that my Grapefruit hypothesis is probably correct and is probably what I was smelling as well). It's a really fantastic beer. Very different from the Burton Baton, but I think I enjoyed it just as much. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Another week, another IPA double feature. I expect another one soon as Nugget Nectar and some other hoppy seasonals hit the shelves.

Flying Dog

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A little while ago I picked up Flying Dog's variety pack and in between all of the holiday beers and whatnot, I've been working my way through them and their awesome Ralph Steadman artwork.

Flying Dog Logo
  • In Heat Wheat: Sweet, light, crisp and wheaty - a rather typical wheat beer. More details here. B-
  • Tire Bite Golden Ale: Light and crisp, perhaps a small step above crappy "fizzy yellow stuff", but not by much. C-
  • Old Scratch Amber Lager: Nice amber color, medium body, a little sticky and overall, it's a very drinkable session beer along the lines of Yuengling lager (maybe even a little better, but that's hard for me to admit!). B
  • Snake Dog India Pale Ale: A nice west-coast style hoppy, earthy IPA. It does well on its own, but pales (pun intended!) when compared to other good IPAs (including Flying Dog's own Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA). B
  • Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale: Solid hoppy pale ale, a little darker than the IPA, but a nice quality session beer and maybe the best overall beer in this pack. B
  • Road Dog Porter: Dark and a bit roasty, it wasn't quite as complex as I'd have hoped. I've never been a big fan of the style though, so that's probably part of my distaste. It's not bad, but definitely not my thing. C+

Overall, while most of them are quite drinkable and solid beers, none are really all that exceptional. This isn't to say that they don't make exceptional beers though: Raging Bitch IPA is actually a big step up from the Snake Dog IPA, and I've heard good things about the Gonzo Imperial Porter.

Double Feature: Yet More Holiday Ales

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Yeah, I've been a bit of a sucker for Holiday ales this year, probably because I love a good Belgian Strong Dark Ale, of which there are many Holiday variations. As such, I find myself playing Belgian Roulette, picking up beers based solely on the fact that they're from Belgium and have pretty holiday pictures on the label. Last night, after my Samichlaus adventure, I had a couple of other beers:

Scaldis Noel

Scaldis Noël: I saw this tiny little bottle with the fancy foil wrapping at the store and thought it might be a good idea to play some Belgian Roulette. The bottle only contains about 8.5 ounces, which is quite the odd size for a bottle, but then, it also comes in at a hefty 12% ABV, so I'm actually glad it wasn't too large. Pours a nice dark amber color with minimal head. Smells a bit boozy, and tastes that way too. It's sweeter than the Samichlaus and maybe a bit more carbonated, but the flavor isn't as complex. Indeed, I didn't really connect with this beer all that much. It's certainly not bad, but it reminded me a bit of how I felt about Mad Elf, though at least I had the small bottle around this time. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (250 ml). Drank from a tulip glass.

Between beers, I cleansed my palate with a single cashew.

Weyerbacher Winter Ale

Weyerbacher Winter Ale: Not a Belgian, but I picked up a sixer of this and gave a few away to my beer club homies, saving a couple for myself. Pours a clear dark brown color, with about a finger of head that leaves some minimal lacing as I drink. Smells of roasted malts and maybe a bit of spruce. Tastes like it smells, with a dry roastiness coming through strongly, but the spices seem a bit lost. Mouthfeel is good, with solid carbonation and good drinkability. I'm not terribly familiar with Weyerbacher, but I was expecting something a lot stronger and more assertive than this. Instead, I got a pretty decent session beer (technically just a hair stronger than most session beers, but I think it would work fine) and there's nothing really wrong with that... It actually reminded me of a less complex 2010 Anchor Christmas Ale (which makes a bit of sense, as they're both classified as "Winter Warmers"). Not a bad beer by any stretch of the imagination, but I would have liked a bit more complexity (it probably didn't help that I had had two relatively intense monsters before cracking this one open, but still). B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a goblet.

Well, I've nearly exhausted my supply of holiday seasonals, but look for a few more posts before the holiday, and apparently one New Years beer as well (I'm excited for that one, which I totally lucked into without even realizing it - keeping this one a secret for now).

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: A Screenplay

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1. INT. SIERRA NEVADA BREWERY - LATE OCTOBER

Six men sit around a table. A projector is displaying a marketing presentation on the screen.

BREWER 1: What the fuck is this shit about?

BREWER 2: Who fucking cares? Free beer!

BREWER 1: Hey shitdouche, you work in a brewery! You drink free beer all the time!

BREWER 2: You're just jealous because I got the fucking good stuff!

KEN GROSSMAN: Hey! Every beer we make is "good stuff"

BREWER 1: Yes, sir...

BREWER 2 (in unison): Yes, sir...

MARKETING WEENIE: Ok folks, let's get started. We here in Marketing are proud to debut the label designs for our new Holiday ale.

BREWER 1 and BREWER 2 start fidgeting anxiously.

KEN GROSSMAN: Great! What's it called?

MARKETING WEENIE:Picture this: A quaint little cottage in the countryside. Surrounded by evergreens, snow adorns its roof, smoke curling up from its chimney...

HEAD BREWER: Hey, shit-for-brains, he asked what it was called.

MARKETING WEENIE sighs, pausing for effect.

MARKETING WEENIE: It's called... Celebration.

KEN GROSSMAN: Love it, love it, love it. Let's go home.

MARKETING WEENIE: Well, wait, shouldn't we try tasting it first?

KEN GROSSMAN: Holy shit, yeah, duh, forgot about that. Where is it? All I see in this bucket here is a bunch of pale ales and IPAs.

BREWER 1 (under his breath): Fuuuuuuuuuuck

BREWER 2: What the fuck are we talking about here?

HEAD BREWER glares at BREWER 1 and BREWER 2

MARKETING WEENIE: You guys were supposed to bring a few bottles of the new holiday ale for us to taste.

BREWER 1: Yeah... so, uh, we didn't brew any.

HEAD BREWER: What!? So what the fuck is in all those fucking beer tanks out there!?

BREWER 2: It's actually a pretty bitchin' IPA.

HEAD BREWER: What about all the cinnamon and nutmeg we were going to brew it with?

BREWER 1: Brewer 2 heard a rumor it would get him high...

HEAD BREWER: That's the dumbest fucking thing I've ever heard.

BREWER 2: Duuuude, it totally works.

KEN GROSSMAN: Really?

MARKETING WEENIE (in unison):This is unbelievable. You assholes should be fired!

KEN GROSSMAN: Eh, not so fast. Do you still have any?

BREWER 2: What, cinnamon?

KEN GROSSMAN: Yeah, let's fire that shit up!

HEAD BREWER: I'm game.

MARKETING WEENIE: So what are we going to do about the holiday ale?

BREWER 1: Shit, man, bottle that IPA and slap those Celebration labels on it. Done. This ain't fuckin rocket science.

KEN GROSSMAN: You guys are fucking brilliant. I'm giving you all raises.

MARKETING WEENIE: This is amazing.

KEN GROSSMAN: Except for you, you're fired.

2. INT. COMPUTER DESK - 11:15 PM

Sierra Nevada Celebration

MARK: Yeah, so it's pretty good, but I have no idea what makes this a winter seasonal. Pours a nice clear amber red color, with a solid, light colored head. Typical IPA smell of malt and hops, and a taste to match. Nice citrusy start, dry bready bitterness in the finish. There's absolutely nothing about this that screams "Holiday" (except for the label), but it's a good beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

So I'm looking forward to Sierra Nevada's upcoming summer seasonal, a Russian Imperial Stout. (What? That makes about as much sense as this one!)

Update: This should go without saying, but I obviously don't think Ken Grossman (and his brewers) is a cinnamon snorting addict. However, I do think it would be funny if he was.

Again Update: Apparently I missed the opportunity to make fun of Sierra Nevada's "green" industry practices (which are praiseworthy, to be sure, but also probably ripe for hijinks).

Tröegs Mad Elf

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I don't know, maybe this just isn't a good year to be drinking beers with "elf" in the name. Not that any were super bad, just that none of them really connected with me. I had high hopes for this one, as I've heard many good things, but I found myself disappointed:

Troegs Mad Elf

Tröegs Mad Elf - Pours a light, clear, reddish color, with a relatively small head that dissipates pretty quickly. Smell is a bit fruity and musty. Taste is sweet, with some of that cherry taste, and very boozy. The strong alcohol taste isn't nearly as well balanced with other flavors as this weekend's other big holiday brew, Three French Hens, but it's not out of control (like the Insanely Bad Elf I had on Thursday) either. Carbonation is low, which makes it a relatively smooth drink, but drinking a whole bomber of this gets a bit cloying towards the end. It's not bad, but I just didn't connect with it at all. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank from a tulip glass.

I'm getting close to the end of my Holiday brews, but I think I've got enough to tide me over until Christmas. So far, so good, even if there've been a few missteps.

Blood Into Beer: Three French Hens

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I've been catching up with 2010 movies lately, and one that I've been looking forward to was Blood Into Wine, a documentary about Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan's winery in Arizona. As a film, it tends to focus more on the personalities involved and their motivations rather than what they produce (though there's some of that as well). This makes a certain sort of sense, as there's something fascinating about an already mysterious rock star putting his music career on hold while he jaunts off to make wine.

It's a very slickly produced film, and it looks fantastic. Some of the sequences are obviously staged (including one embarrassingly stupid scene in a bathroom), but they don't pretend not to be and it does indicate something about the quirky personalities covered by the film. Keenan has always been a bit impenetrable, so the mixture of fact and fiction makes a certain sense. Arizona is clearly not a haven for wine-producers, and the winery shown in the film is absolutely tiny - kinda like a micro-winery. It's still a young business, but early indications seem promising. It seems for a moment that the film is gearing up towards a Beer Wars-style (or maybe King of Kong-style) underdog versus monolithic corporation confrontation, but it doesn't really go that way. The wine world certainly seems competitive, and there are big entities there, but it hasn't quite reached the epic alcoholic-drink-as-commodity levels that the beer world deals with. As such, all we get are a few other wineries and wine critics who opine on the oddity of an Arizona winery. There are a number of other celebrities that make appearances, such as a hilarious, recurring Tim and Eric interview, Milla Jovovich (Keenan's coconspirator in music with Puscifer) and Patton Oswalt. In the end, it's quite entertaining. I don't particularly love wine though, so I substituted beer for wine whilst watching:

The Bruery - 3 French Hens

The Bruery 3 French Hens: The Bruery is only a few years old at this point, but it's gained quite a reputation in that time, and from what I've seen/tasted, it's very deserving of all the attention it gets. This beer is the third in a planned 12 year series of beers based on the 12 Days (or should we say Years) of Christmas. You have to respect that sort of audacity, though as I understand it, there's some controversy about the first couple of years of this (in particular, Partridge in a Pear Tree) being hard to find and thus fetching quite a price on eBay and the like. Regardless, when I saw a bottle of this at the local beer garden, I had to pick it up... It pours a very dark brown, almost black, color. You can only really see it when you hold it up to a light, but when you do, you can see through it (just barely). The head is well proportioned and surprisingly light colored. It also smells a bit lighter than it looks, which I have no problem with, as it smells great. The taste is sweet, a little fruity, and spicy (maybe a little clove), with a bit of a syrupy middle and a nice boozy kick at the end. Sometimes that sorta booziness can overpower a beer (as it did with last night's Insanely Bad Elf), but in this case, it's relatively well balanced, and you can get that sort of flavor without being overpowered by it. I think I can also get a bit of that oaked flavor as well, which just adds to the complexity. Overall, it's an exceptional beer, and something I wish I had the foresight to buy a case of and the willpower to store it for the next ten years. As it is, I guess I should just be happy that this West Coast beer is even available here at all! Now I find myself greatly looking forward to Four Calling Birds. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml, capped bottle). Drank from a goblet.

This is only the second beer I've had from The Bruery (the first being Coton, which I thought was amazing, if a bit powerful), but they seem every bit as excellent as their reputation implies, so I'm quite excited to seek out more from them...

Decembeer Club

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Towards the beginning of every month, a bunch of friends from work and I meet up at a local BYOB and bring some new/interesting beers to try. This month's haul:

Decembeer

It was a mostly holiday ale theme. Conditions aren't exactly ideal for tasting, so take the following with a grain of salt, but here's what I thought of each:

  • Affligem Noël: My contribution and one of my favorites of the night. Much like their dubbel, but a little spicier. Great beer that I plan to revisit in more detail this holiday season (I have another bottle on my shelf).
  • Anchor Special Christmas Ale 2010 - My other contribution, I've already written about this, but it went over well with other folks too...
  • Delirium Noël: Raisiny and sweet, another popular beer and something I want to revisit in detail.
  • Ridgeway Insanely Bad Elf: Super boozy red ale. Not terrible, but the high alcohol overpowers everything. I'm not sure I could drink a 12 oz bottle of this, but it's interesting nonetheless...
  • Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt - Not as dark as the Delirium, but it shares that certain raisin smell and flavor, a little syrupy sweet too. Not bad.
  • Ridgeway Reindeer Droppings - Doesn't sound appetizing, but a solid light flavored beer (technically an English Pale Ale). Not a favorite, but a decent session beer.
  • Ridgeway Warm Welcome: A reasonable brown ale, I think this one was overshadowed by some of the above beers.
  • Southern Tier Unearthly IPA - Solid DIPA, but not the top of the line (like Dogfish 90 Minute or Stone IPA)
  • Ridgeway Lump of Coal Stout: I suppose this is a reasonable stout, but there's nothing special about it and there's no holiday style to it either. Not offensively bad or anything, but not especially noteworthy either.
  • New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale - Nothing really holiday about this, but a solid session beer (I assume that this is someone's Yuengling Lager style beer).
  • Unibroue La Fin Du Monde - A first time beer club attendee brought this. Hard to fault him for that, as I love this beer.

Well, that about covers it! Again, not an especially rigorous tasting session, with the palate cleansed by a burger and fries, but still, as always, a really good time. After beer club, a few of us hit up the local beer distributer. It being PA, we could only buy a full case of stuff, but someone became enamored with Anchor's Christmas ale and bought a case of that, and four of us went in on a St. Bernardus variety pack (each of us got 6 St Bernardus beers, which is pretty awesome). As usual, I'm already looking forward to next month.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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