Monday, March 30, 2009

March 26, 2009: Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale




Tonight's beer hails from a brewery in one of my favorite cities San Diego, which contrary to popular belief is not German for "whale's vagina" (Just in case you somehow didn't get that reference, watch Will Ferrell's Anchorman, then you'll get it). For almost my entire life, I've lived just about halfway between the metropolises of Los Angeles and San Diego, but I've always prefered San Diego over Los Angeles. There's definitely an intangible quality about San Diego that makes it a very inviting city, and it's no surprise to see more a more breweries popping up in the area. Ballast Point is an area near the mouth of the San Diego bay, and has been the setting for some of the city of San Diego and the state of California's most historically important events. The beer of the day is Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale, and it's got some distinct characteristics. I was impressed by the sizable and enduring head on my Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale, which I found to be particularly creamy and refreshing. This beer is a thick, strong beer with a bite of American hops that reminds me alot of an IPA in many ways. I'm absolutely smitten with the gorgeous radiant copper color of Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale, but for me the taste doesn't quite match up. This isn't a bad beer, just not one that presents anything to really rave about. I wish I had more intriguing and positive things to say about this beer, but the simple truth is that I wasn't thoroughly impressed by this one. I'd order one of these again on the off chance that I was able to find it at a bar or restaurant on tap, but I won't be holding my breath.

Cheers,
Ian

http://www.ballastpoint.com

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March 25, 2009: Santa Cruz Ale Works IPA





Anyone who knows me well will tell you that besides beer and writing, sports are one of my life's greatest obsession. I remember as a kid organizing a large box full of baseball cards into neat little piles with my brothers, a game we called "team by team". As a ten year old boy, I was reading sports almanacs and memorizing Sir Charles Barkley's stats for the 1992-93 season (25.6 pts per game, 12.2 rebounds per game, 5.1 assists per game). To this day, my obsession has ebbed slighly, only because if I devoted the amount of time to following the sporting world as I did when I was a boy, I'd have to quit my job, drop out of college and spend seven hours a day glued to ESPN. (wait a minute, that doesn't sound half bad. I may have to reevaluate a few things in my life...).

From my days of sports fanaticism, I've come across what I consider to be some of the world's most interesting nicknames for sporting teams. The litany of absurd team nicknames stretches almost a mile long, but below I've compiled a list of some of my favorites throughout the years.

10. Butte Pirates: A high school team from Butte, Montana. It's nice to see a high school team flouting the notions of political correctness, and making fun of the name of their city the way that the rest of America does. Well done.

9. Webster University Gorloks: What the hell is a Gorlok anyway?

8. Utah Jazz: Jazz is pretty much the wussiest music ever. If they were the Utah Metalheads maybe they would sound a little tougher.

7. Indianapolis Colts: A colt is a baby horse. You might as well call your team the Kittens.

6. Tampa Bay Mutiny: A defunct MLS soccer team. Looks like all the fans jumped ship

5. Miami Fusion: Another defunct MLS team. It's bad enough that we're trying to Americanize the world's most global game by giving the teams official nicknames, but why can't they go with something completely lame like the "fusion". What exactly is being fused? By the way, contrary to popular belief, the Ian Bishop who formerly played for Miami Fusion F.C. is not me, but a different dude with the same name. Small world I guess.

4. New York/New Jersey Hitmen: There's a lot of stereotyped team nicknames out there, but this one just seems to be in really bad taste. Sure "Hitmen" was supposed to be a reference to the hits this short lived XFL team was supposed to have dished out on the field, but no one was fooled. I have a bit of a problem with a national sporting team condoning murder, but maybe that's just me.

3. Whittier College Poets: .... seriously? Because no one could think of anything tougher or more fearsome than Edgar Allan Poe and William Butler Yeats?

2.University of Northern Colorado Fightin' Whities: Sure they may have only been an intramural basketball team, but you gotta love the moxy of a team that takes a stand against racially insensitive nicknames like the Redskins or Fighting Illini. Unfortunately for the Fightin' Whities, we honkies were far from being offended. Hell, I love this team name so much that I bought one of their shirts.

And the number one worst, most absurd, completely ridiculous team nickname in the history of sports.....

1. UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs. Hmmmmm.... there are so many ways to go with this one, I don't even know where to start. Santa Cruz has long been a haven for hippies and other kinds of people who don't exactly embrace the conventions of middle America. Most teams opt for a fierce nickname that inspires fear in their opponents; something like the bears, lions, hawks, eagles or giants. It only makes sense that UC Santa Cruz would reject adopting such nomenclature and choose a nickname that is both ludicrous and repulsive to most people. That's just the kind of place that Santa Cruz is. It's really a whole little world unto itself, and things are done a bit differently there.

Tonight's beer is Santa Cruz Ale Works IPA, which comes from that same little college town by the sea. Santa Cruz is a funky little town that marches to the beat of it's own drummer, and just nickname "Banana Slugs", Santa Cruz Ale Works IPA is this community's unique take on the traditional IPA. India pale ales are really hot in the American beer market right now, especially from craft breweries like Santa Cruz Ale Works. It's hard for a beer like this to set itself apart from the myriad of competitors out there, but Santa Cruz Ale Works IPA has done a great job creating a modest and distinctive IPA. When it comes to India pale ales, the name of the game is large amounts of quality hops, and the strong scent of roses in Santa Cruz Ale Works IPA is proof that this beers has got the chops. The taste of this beer is understandably really hoppy, but there are also some interesting hints of toasted bread and flowers in this ale. To be honest, I found Santa Cruz Ale Works IPA to be much weaker than the average IPA in terms of hoppiness, which was an absolute plus for me because a lot of the IPA's out there today are way too strong even for me. If you're a fan of a more popular IPA like Sierra Nevada, try switching over to Santa Cruz Ale Works IPA and you'll appreciate the difference.

Cheers,
Ian

http://www.santacruzaleworks.com/

March 24, 2009: Lost Coast Raspberry Brown Ale




When you really think about it, it's difficult to comprehend how our senses really work. We experience the world through what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel, but we never really think about how these processes occur. The human brain is such a complex piece of work that it's almost a futile effort to comprehend how it functions the way it does. I mean, have you ever really thought about how your sense of smell works? How the human mind is able to sense odors and interpret them chemically into smells is beyond what I can personally fathom. Tonight I'm Drinking Lost Coast Raspberry Brown Ale, and it is truly a unique sensory delight. (Don't worry, I did my homework this time and read the label properly and verified that Raspberry Brown is indeed brewed by Lost Coast Breweries in Eureka, Ca, and not by Left Coast Brewery in San Clemente).

Only one word came to mind when I popped the cap off of this bottle; WHOA! I was absolutely knocked off of my heels by the intense fruity aroma of Lost Coast Raspberry Brown Ale. Intense is the perfect word to describe the raspberry scent that emanates from this beer, but I use the word intense in the most positive sense of the word. The smell of fresh raspberries absolutely radiates from the glass when you pour Lost Coast Raspberry Brown Ale, and my mouth was literally watering as I held the glass to my nose and inhaled it. We've all heard that taste and smell are the most closely linked of all senses, so logic would dictate that the strong essence of raspberry in the aroma of this beer would undoubtedly translate in the taste of this beer, which it most certainly did. If you've never tried Lost Coast Raspberry Brown Ale, picture a craft brewed brown ale similar to the famous Newcastle Brown, and then add a berry twist and you've got Lost Coast Raspberry Brown. I've gone on record stating my dislike of beers with added flavors, but this beer made me revise my position a bit. When foreign flavors are introduced to beers in an appropriate way, they often have the effect of complimenting the flavor of the beer itself. Lost Coast Raspberry Brown Ale is perfect for people who like an interesting, fruity twist on their beers, but don't want to sacrifice quality. The caramel and dark chocolate hops that go into this beer create a classic style brown ale that is both smooth and rich. Not a beer that I would drink religiously, but definitely a worthy and unique effort from Lost Coast Brewery. Well Done!

Cheers,
Ian

http://www.lostcoast.com/

March 23, 2009: Maredsous




Tonight I'm drinking a classic Belgian tripel ale called Maredsous. Belgian tripel ales are a bit of an acquired taste because they have a higher alcohol content (usually 10%) which give them a little more bite than your average beer. I have yet to see a case of true Belgian triple sitting on the shelf at my local grocery store, for the simple fact that it's only die-hard beer hounds and purists here in America that seek out Belgian ale. Put quite simply, Belgian tripel ales are not for wusses. If your a wussy little, hand lotion wearing nancy boy, then a beer like Maredsous is not for you. Maredsous is in my opinion, the benchmark by which a good Belgian tripel should be judged. Maredsous is a very rich ale, with a lot of character. Despite the high alcohol content, Maredsous seems to blend dark flavors of fruit and spice to create an ale with a really crisp finish. For those of you who like to sip a fine beer slowly and take it all in, Maredsous is a great choice because this is not the kind of beer that you want to pound in a game of beer pong.

Op uw gezondheid and A votre sante!
Ian

http://www.maredsous-usa.com/

March 22, 2009: Tiger Beer




I don't really remember my father as a drinker. He's been sober for almost twenty years now, but even before my Dad quit drinking he wasn't exactly an alcoholic. The details of my Dad's young adult life are pretty fuzzy for me, because my father never really talks about those days, not to mention that he's never really been much of a party animal. I like to imagine what my dad was like in his college days at Berkeley in the 70's. I can just see him sweeping back his fine, shoulder length hair and smoking a parliament or pall mall or something. Surely he had to have let down his guard and cut loose every now and then. His past is like a jigsaw puzzle, and I'm trying to put the pieces together and learn more about him every day.

One thing I remember my Dad talking about in his college days was a beer called Tiger. To this day, whenever my brothers and I talk about beer, my dad will inevitably mention Malaysian Tiger Beer, and how it was all he drank in college. For a long time I thought my Dad was just messing with me, until I finally found the fabled lager sitting on the shelves of my local shop. Tonight's beer is Tiger, and I've chosen it for obvious reasons.

One of the most interesting aspects of this beer is the strong flavor of corn that is present throughout. Corn isn't a really common flavor to find in a beer, but this beer was as corny as they get. Tiger is a pretty mellow lager with little to no head, that goes flat pretty quickly after being poured. I noticed a strong resemblance between Tiger Beer, and some of the Indian lagers that I had tried earlier in the 365brews project. Not the highest quality lager that I've tasted to come out of Asia, but definitely a solid choice if you want a light lager with character. I can see why my father liked the Malaysian Tiger Bee; It's just tasty enough to be drinkable and esoteric enough to feel exotic and unique. I'll definitely drink this beer again one day, I just wish that they made a non-alcoholic version so I could share it with my Dad and talk about the old days for a little while.

Minum!
Ian

http://www.tigerbeer.us/

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March 21, 2009: Bohemia





After the age of 21, birthdays just plain suck. Sure, we try to make ourselves feel better by throwing parties in our own honor and getting shit-faced on our birthdays, but those are purely coping mechanisms we've devised to avoid reality. The reality of birthdays is that they're just another reminder of how old you're really getting. No one likes being reminded of their own mortality, and even at the ripe young age of 25 I dread every birthday to come for pretty much the rest of my life. Yesterday was my older brother Andrew's 28th birthday. It seems like only yesterday that we were pulling all of the mattresses from my parents house into the front yard and jumping off of the roof. If you would have told me five years ago that my brother would be a married man with two children by the age of 28 I would have called you certifiably insane, but here we are today. Every time a birthday comes around, all I want to do is find a way to grab hold of time and keep it from going on, but it never works. The best we can do is live in the moment and enjoy the small things in life. That, and get completely hammered.

Tonight my friend James has thrown my brother a birthday party, and I'm drinking a cerveza called Bohemia. If you're a fan of 365brews.com, you're probably well aware of my aversion to most cervezas. I've always stayed away from Mexican beers because they're typically much too weak for my taste, and Bohemia was no exception. Although I will say that Bohemia is probably on the top end of the cerveza food chain, it's still really far below my standards for a beer. I guess I just really don't like the combination of thin beer and high carbonation that has become a kind of signature for most cervezas. Unlike other Cervezas though, Bohemia actually had a pretty interesting mixture of flavors that I found pretty pleasant. Specifically, the taste of sweet malt and noble hops made this beer pretty drinkable. I'm no dummy, I can understand what people find attractive about cervezas but I just happen to have a different taste (one some would call more sophisticated and refined... jk) in beer. For you cerveza fans out there, I would strongly urge you all to pass up the Coronas or Pacificos next time you hit up the taquieria, and go for a Bohemia instead; you won't be disappointed.

Salud!
Ian

http://www.femsa.com/en/business/cerveza/brands.htm

March 20, 2009: Leffe




Well faithful readers, it's the day that you've had marked on your calendar for three long, cold months of winter; the vernal equinox! Yes ladies and gentlemen, today marks the first official day of spring. Forget all of the groundhog day, punxatawny Phil bullcrap about seeing a shadow and ushering in the new season, or six more weeks of winter. Today is the true first day of spring, and we're officially one season closer to the long golden days of summer that embrace drunken revelry like no other season. In southern California, spring is probably the least heralded season because of the simple fact that our climate is generally mild all year long. In places where the temperatures dip below freezing in the winter, spring is a bit of a Godsend, but to us in So Cal, it's just that fuzzy time of transition between cold and warm weather (when I say cold, I'm talking like 50 degrees farenheit at the coldest. Pathetic, I know.).

Well, to ring in the changing of the seasons, Iv'e decided to go out for a night on the town and treat myself to a quality Belgian beer called Leffe. Leffe is a blonde ale that has sweet notes of banana and clove in it's flavor. One of my favorite things about this beer was the way it felt in my mouth. Few beers are able to combine the smooth finish of an ale, with the crisp bite of a lager the way that the brewers of Leffe can. I've come to expect a lot from Belgian beers, and as far as Leffe goes, it's pretty run of the mill. Not quite on the level of a beer like Affligem in my opinion, but still probably a step up from a lot of similar Belgian beers.

Op uw gezondheid and A Votre Sante!
Ian

http://www.leffe.be/

March 19, 2009: St. Peter's Cream Stout




St. Peter, disciple of Jesus Christ. Known as "The Rock" in the early days of the Christian church, St. Peter is one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity. The bible tells us that in the days that Christ lived on earth, Peter was one of Jesus' most ardent and hardworking followers. St. Peter is commonly depicted as the keeper of the pearly gates, the man who decides which of us sinners is worthy of eternal paradise. While this representation of Peter is not entirely factual, it's a fitting post for a man that was so committed to Jesus' teachings that he paid for it with his life. Tonight's beer is called St. Peter's Cream Stout, and it's a fitting tribute to a man that led an exemplary life of dedicated faith and service.

I am admittedly an unabashed fan of almost all stouts. For me, stout is probably the closest that the beverage beer has ever come to perfection. Because of my love for the stout, I'm usually especially critical of new stouts when I try them for the first time. I tried to find fault with St. Peter's Cream Stout, so I could sound like some stuck up, know-it-all beer snob who could thumb my nose at yet another imitator, but I was pleasantly surprised by this beer. St. Peter's Cream Stout poured a mouth watering shade of dark chocolate brown which immediately peaked my interest. Combined with an ultra thick, sepia brown head and carbonation at almost nil, I was nearly in beer heaven. St. Peter's Cream Stout has flavors of nut, coffee and chocolate that wrap your taste buds up in creamy bliss. If you're a fan of Guinness, you will absolutely love St. Peter's Cream Stout who have done a noble job of creating a very worthy product in the space of less than fifteen years. Bravo St. Peter's!

Cheers!
Ian

http://www.stpetersbrewery.co.uk

March 18, 2009: Pike's Naughty Nellie





I know what you're thinking. Naughty Nellie either sounds like the name of a racehorse or the name of a call girl, not a beer. Why'd they pick a name like Naughty Nellie anyway and put a buxom pin up girl on the label? Oh yeah, that's right... because me like boobs.

Tonight's beer is Pike's Naughty Nellie, and like almost every beer, there is an interesting story behind the name of Pike's brewery. Pike's wasn't founded by a man named Pike, but rather a man named Charles Finkel. The name Pike comes from a 1941 slapstick comedy movie called "The Lady Eve" starring Henry Fonda. In the movie, Fonda plays the character Charles Pike who is the clueless heir to a large brewing fortune thanks to his family's Pike ale. Pike is a bit of a halfwit, and almost gets swindled out of his sizable fortune by a conniving father-daughter team of con artists, until the daughter of the duo falls for Pike and thwarts her father's sinister plans. This forgotten piece of cinema from the bygone days of old Hollywood was the inspiration behind Mr. Finkel choosing to name his brewery Pike. I guess I figured that not too many people would be lining up to purchase "Finkel's Ale".

Like the lighthearted comedy that it is named for, Pike brewery has adopted a whimsical approach to the naming of their line of beers including not only Naughty Nellie, but also XXXXX Stout, Kilt Lifter and Monk's Uncle. With the simple ingredients of malt, hops, water, organic barley and yeast stated plainly on the front label, Pike's Naughty Nellie is a simple beer that pulls no punches. Pike's Naughty Nelly is a golden orange tinted ale, with soft notes of pear, peach and freshly cut grass that combine for a fairly smooth and even flavor. Medium thick head and average lacing are what you can expect when you pour Naughty Nellie his one into a glass. The beer itself was actually pretty decent, but the fun and irreverant spirit of the brewers at Pike's is what really sold me on this beer. After all, marketing and presentation are large parts of the overall picture and I think Pike's has that aspect down to an absolute science. Pike's Naughty Nellie was not my favorite beer by any stretch of the imagination, but I would absolutely drink this beer again.

Cheers,
Ian

www.Pikebrewing.com

Monday, March 23, 2009

March 17, 2009: Guinness




Ah, St. Patrick's day! Is there any date on the calendar that hopeless drunks look forward to more? Being of Irish descent, I take special pride in the one day of the year that everyone else wishes they were Irish like me (To be honest, I'm only about a quarter Irish, but who's counting?). My father once told me that new year's eve and St. Patrick's day are what real drinkers call amateur night, because you get all rookies out there in the bars trying in vain to keep up with the experts. This is just one of the reasons that I actually don't like going out to the bars on St. Patrick's day. In my home town, there are two "Irish" pubs that are known to be hot spots on St. Pat's day. I use the term "Irish" loosely here, because just having a green sign and an Irish name doesn't make your pub Irish. These two bars, which are actually the same bar just in two different locations, are literally swarming with halfwit frat boys, bloated middle aged men and neglected mom's who are almost certainly up to no good on a Tuesday night St. Patty's day. While this prospect might sound appealing to some of you out there, for me it sounds more like slow, torturous death. I'm not going to follow the status quo tonight and join the queue at the Irish bar that wraps around the corner. Instead, I've opted to join some friends at a quieter restaurant bar just down the street that we'll call T.G.I. Tuesday's.

While I haven't given into the pressure to spend my hard earned money at an overcrowded and overpriced Irish themed bar tonight, it would be completely remiss and irresponsible of me if I didn't indulge in Ireland's most beloved stout, Guinness. I've been a little hesitant to write about my experience with Guinness so far, because to me it seems like a little league pitcher trying to critique the performance of a legend like Nolan Ryan. However, the 365brews project is simply one man's take on the gigantic universe of brewing culture, so fearlessly I shall sojourn on to spread my word to the people of the world.

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Ireland for the first time. Ireland is a land of deep history, intrigue and tradition that every able bodied person should make the effort to visit at least once in their lifetime. I had the chance to experience so many different parts of Ireland, but for me, the most important stop that we made on this trip was to St. James' Gate in Dublin, home of the world famous Guinness brewery. I can say without an ounce of doubt that the number one destination for any tourist to Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse, for a number of reasons. St. James' Gate brewery is absolutely massive, and it feels a bit intimidating when you walk down the dark cobbled alley that leads to it. The aged look of the buildings belie the true modern beauty of the brewery, with five levels of crisscrossing escalators that lead ultimately to the world famous gravity bar which provides a 360 degree view of Dublin City and the surrounding areas. If you've ever been curious about the labor intensive process of creating a fine beer, then the Guinness Storehouse is your Mecca. The self guided tour leads you through the fascinating step by step process of how Guinness is made, but understandably omits certain key ingredients for the sake of secrecy. When you've finished the tour, you're rewarded with a free pint of Guinness at the gravity bar, which is pulled perfectly every time, with a perfectly crafted shamrock styled right into the ultra creamy head.

If you're from another planet and have for one reason or another never had the pleasure of drinking a Guinness, then you have been depriving yourself of the very nectar of the Gods. I promise you that you have never ever tasted a beer that is quite like Guinness. To call it smooth is an understatement, as there is almost no carbonation to speak of in a proper pint of Guinness. The deep color of dark chocolate or charred wood, this is not your Nancy-boy pilsner. Although Guinness has been called "steak in a glass" by some, Guinness is not actually that heavy when you compare it to some of the more extreme stouts that have come along in recent years and tried to emulate Guinness' recipe for success. I won't presume to try to explain the complex flavors of Guinness, but I will say that Guinness is the beer to drink if you like your ales bitter, smooth and creamy. Tonight I've paired my pint of Guinness with another Irish favorite, Jameson whiskey on the rocks to combine for maximum drunken debauchery.

Slainte,
Ian

www.Guinness.com

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 16, 2009: Kapuziner




Tonight's post will be a relatively short one, because to be quite honest, I've had so many Hefeweizens in the last two and a half months that I'm kind of running out of things to say about them. Tonight I'm drinking Kapuziner which is..... you guessed it, another Hefeweizen from good old Deutschland. A few weeks ago I had a beer from Germany called Weihenstephaner which I thought was the best Hefeweizen that I had tried yet for the 365brews project. Tonight's beer however has in fact supplanted Weihenstephaner as my favorite Hef. Kapuziner has a cloudier, murkier color than Weihenstephaner and it has a pleasing floral aroma that's apparent from the first pour. A good hef should have a nice wheaty, bread flavor and Kapuziner had the best that I've tasted recently. Sometimes hefs have a danger of being a bit too heavy, but Kapuziner was a nice, evenly balanced beer. Kapuziner has quicly moved to the top of the short list of my favorite beers so far in the 365brews project.

Prost!
Ian

http://www.kulmbacher.de/de/klbag/

Saturday, March 21, 2009

March 15, 2009: Caledonian Golden Promise




Tonight's beer is a Scottish ale called Caledonian Golden Promise. Who were the Caledonians you ask? Good thing I happen to be an expert on ancient Scottish history. The term "Caledonian" comes from the Roman name for the unruly tribes from the area that is today modern Scotland. When the Romans first tried go tame these wild men of the north, they were met with fierce resistance and built Hadrian's Wall to keep the Caledonians out of England. The independent spirit of their Caledonian ancestors still shines proudly in modern Scotland. Although Northen Ireland and Wales also have their own sense of cultural individuality, they pale in comparison to the Scottish who absolutely loath the fact that they share the island with the Brits. Despite the divide between the Brits and the Scots, there are a few things these two nations have in common, one of them being ale. Caledonia Golden Promise is a British style pale ale, with a slight golden orange tint to it. Caledonian Golden Promise claims that it is the world's first organic beer, which sounds ridiculous to me since technically all beer was made organically until it began to be produced in mass quantities in the 17th century. I'm sure they mean that it's the first modern organic beer, but we'll forgive them for that. With a sweet honey flavor on top of malty hops and a bread-like after taste, defintely has a nice earthy feel to it. The only real problem that I had with this beer was that it lacked the bitter edge that you would traditionally expect from an ale. It was pretty close to Great Scott Organic Ale which I tried last month in terms of taste, but it seemed far superior in quality. All in all, Caledonian Golden Promise is a decent ale, and a good choice if you're looking to introduce more organic products into your diet.

Cheers,
Ian

http://www.caledonian-brewery.co.uk/ales_golden.html

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March 14, 2009: Anchor Steam




I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to do a bit of traveling in my 25 years on this planet. I've still got much more traveling that I want to do in my life, but so far I've been able to witness some of the western world's most beautiful, historical and culturally relevant cities. I've stood on top of the Eiffel tower in Paris during a rainstorm, walked the crumbling hallways in the Roman Colosseum and stumbled drunkenly across Dublin's famous Ha'penny bridge, but one of my favorite cities of all time will always be America's own San Francisco. Sure, it may not compare to some of its European counterparts in terms of history, but San Francisco has what the French call a certain " Je ne sais quoi" about it; an undefined quality that seems to suck you in and make you fall in love with it. Maybe it's the steep hills upon which the city is built that give it an unique urban charm. Maybe it's the cities tradition of accepting society's most unique and interesting people that have been shunned elsewhere. Maybe it because it's one of the only cities in the world in which I could walk down the street wearing fishnet stocking, cut off jean shorts and silk angel wings and still be the most normal person within an eight block radius. Whatever it is, San Francisco cast its spell on me when I was just a young lad, and I'm still in love to this day.

Tonight's beer is Anchor Steam, which comes from that hilly little city on the bay, San Francisco. Anchor Steam is a beer whose brewery traces its roots back to the frantic days of the California gold rush in the mid 19th century. When you think about the relatively short history of the state of California, Anchor Steam brewery has laid some pretty deep roots in city of San Francisco. Today in the 21st century, the city is a hot, bustling metropolis and Anchor Steam is still a beer that has remained pretty much unchanged for over a century. Despite the many hardships and setbacks that Anchor brewery faced in the early days of its existence, Anchor Steam is a microbrew that thrives today all along the west coast. Anchor Steam is a golden-burnt orange colored beer that pours a nice, two-fingered thickness head that soon dissipates into the rest of the beer. It has a bit of a citrus scent to it, but the aroma is actually pretty forgettable for the most part, which is a shame. Usually the senses of scent and taste are strongly linked together, but in the case of Anchor Steam the taste far exceeded the smell. I'd describe the taste of Anchor Steam as being clean, light and citrussy with flavors of honey, light hops and maybe a bit of wheat? The end result is a beer that goes down smoothly, but won't exactly rock your world.

Cheers,
Ian

http://www.anchorbrewing.com

p.s. my friends are all much better looking than I am, which is why I decided to give my loyal readers a bit of a break from looking at my busted mug. Enjoy the eye candy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

March 13, 2009: Boddington's





Being a football (meaning soccer, not American football. Although being an American football fan in Los Angeles is difficult in it's own way) in America is tough. Hardly anyone can possibly understand the lengths that we go to to follow a sport being played half way across the world. We wake up at ridiculously early hours to watch games, or sometimes just listen to them being broadcast over the internet. If you want to see your favorite team play in the flesh, it takes planning an epic pilgrimage that is sure to test the true veracity of your fanhood. God help any football fan in the states that doesn't support a major club like Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona, Arsenal or Real Madrid, because the chances of your team's games being televised in the states is beyond remote. I've always thought that you have to be a bit of a masochist to be a football fan in America, because you've got to be willing to deal with a lot of disappointment, loneliness and hangovers.

If you've ever had the privilege to be in a big European city on match day, then you know what an incredible experience it is. Here in the states, we football fans are used to waking up as early as four a.m. just to make it to kickoff. In England, for example, a football match can be an all day experience. You can wake up, hit the pubs with some of your mates and drink for a good three or four hours before they even open the stadium gates. If your team is playing on the other side of the country, no problem. You're really no more than three or four hours away from any stadium in England by rail, and there's really no reason that you couldn't see your favorite team play on any given Saturday if you're willing to spend a little extra cash. What did I have to do when I want to see my beloved Liverpool Football Club for the first time? I had to use my modest student loan money to but a plane ticket to England, stay in less than reputable hostels while pinch almost every penny I had, buy tickets from a scalper that I found on Craigslist.com for almost ten times the face value, and brave the swarming, unruly masses of rival fans that clogged the city streets of Liverpool near Anfield stadium, but for me it was more than worth it.

Ever since experiencing match day in England for myself, I've been desperate to replicate the experience here in the states. Towards this end, my friends and I came up with what I think is the closest that one can ever get to experiencing a match day here in the states.

The plan is quite simple, really. There's a certain pub in Santa Monica that is probably the closest thing to a proper British pub that I've ever come across in the states. One night we decided that if we were going to wake up early to watch the games anyway, we should just drink ourselves blind in the pub until it shuts down at two a.m., then head back to the car to take a quick nap before the pub opens again at four a.m. to show the game. This half-baked scheme has provided all of the intrigue, drunken rambling and sheer unadulterated that one could expect from the match day experience, for the past three seasons.

Tonight is the eve of one of England's most important and heated rivalries between Liverpool Football Club and Manchester United. I've come with my friend Travis who is a fellow Liverpool fan to abuse my body by drinking copious amounts of alcohol and depriving my body of some much needed sleep to watch the match at the pub. Since we're in a British owned and operated pub waiting to watch a football match, it only seems appropriate for me to drink one of the most quintessential British ales of all time; Boddington's.

If you've never treated yourself to a Boddington's Ale, then shame on you. You've been depriving yourself of one of the finest British style ales known to man, and there is no excuse for it. Whenever someone asks me to describe what drinking a Boddington's is like, I usually tell them to imagine drinking a Guiness, and minus the heavy taste of a stout, and you've got a basic description of what a Boddington's is like. What I mean by that is Boddington's is an ultra smooth and creamy ale, that has a mouthfeel that is very, very similar to Guiness. The taste of Boddingon's is surprisingly light for such a thick ale, with floral and fruity notes that are very subtle. For my money, Boddington's is the best example of what an English ale should be. I get why some people don't really care for this beer, and it's certainly not for lager loving little sissy boys (no offense lager heads!). But if you're the kind of guy who likes a good solid ale with tons of taste and substance, then Boddington's is a great choice for you.

Cheers,
Ian

P.S. In case you're wondering how the Manchester United - Liverpool derby turned out.... Liverpool beat the absolute tar out of Man U!!!!! Take that you dirty Mancs! We may not win the league this year, but at least we beat you both times this season. No offense to any Man U fans out there..... wait, what am I saying? Suck it Man U fans!!!!!!!

http://www.inbev.co.uk/Brands_UK_and_Ireland.htm

Important Notice

Dear readers,
I have an important announcement to make regarding my post from the other night about Asylum. I erroneously stated that Asylum was brewed by Lost Coast Brewery, when in fact it is brewed by Left Coast Brewery. The obvious error has been pointed out to me by Barbara from Lost Coast Breweries who understandably took exception to my mistake. To Lost Coast breweries and my loyal readers, I would like to apologize and say "My bad".

With that being said, Lost Coast Brewery is still in my good graces, and to make amends I will be sure to spread the word about my mistake.

Cheers,
Ian

P.S. I will revise the post about asylum to more accurately reflect the drinking experience when I have a bit more time. Sorry again!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March 12, 2009: Karlovacko




Ever since I was a little kid, I've been kind of obsessed with geography. Instead of having posters of athletes or rockstars hanging on the wall of my bedroom, my brother and I had maps of countries from around the world. Instead of learning how to solve a quadratic equation, I was attempting to memorize the capitals of every African country. My brother and I were such nerds as children that we used to sit down and try to list all of the countries of the world from memory as a weird sort game. I've always been good at remembering the countries of Africa and Asia, but I could never really get a good handle of eastern Europe. It's changed around so much in my life time, that it's been hard to keep up with which country is called what anymore. Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Slovakia.... all nations that have come into existance in my relatively short life span. I've always been somewhat fascinated by this area of the world, but to this day I don't really know much about it. It's not exactly a region that is renowned for it's rich brewing traditions, but tonight's beer Karlovacko comes from the country of Croatia, and it's as big of a mystery to me as the country it hails from.

It's always nice try a mystery beer because I never come into with any expectations or preconceived notions. I've spent my fair share of time in bars and corner stores around the world, but have never seen, heard of, or encountered anyone who had known of this beer before. Karlovacko is actually one of the most popular beers is Croatia, but it's popularity is almost non existant in the states. Karlovacko poured a pleasant golden straw color with an thick, with a mouth watering head, and a decent amount of lacing. Karlovacko has a nice creaminess about it that you don't typically find with most lagers, but still feels light and airy. Flavors of grass, hay and oat give Karlovacko a nice earthy kind of flavor, but ends up finishing a bit metallic by the end. All in all Karlovacko is a decent beer, but I won't be going out of my way to try it again.

Ċ½ivjeli!
Ian

http://www.karlovacko.hr/
warning, the website is all in Croatian so unless you can read the language or just a very intuitive grasp of foreign website, it may not be very useful.

March 11, 2009: Left Coast Asylum




Earlier this month I tried a beer from Left Coast Breweries called Great White Ale which I enjoyed immensely. Anytime I try a craft brew from a small, family run brewery I always eager to try their whole line of products if I like the first one that I try. I was shopping for some new beers in Bevmo! the other night, when a fellow beer enthusiast mentioned Left Coast Asylum in passing. As you can see on the label that's printed on the bottle, there's a pretty cool graveyard looking scene that gives Left Coast Asylum an air of intimidation. I knew from the get go that this was the kind of Belgian style ale that was going to kick my ass, and I couldn't wait. That's not a misprint on the bottle; if you look closely, you'll notice that this beer is 11% alcohol by volume, which is more than twice the standard 5% that you'll find in most beers around the world. Left Coast Asylum is classified as a Belgian tripel ale. Belgian ales have traditionally been classified into one of three categories by strenght; enkle, dubble, and tripel, with tripel understandably being the strongest.

I am self admittedly a bit of a baby when it comes to beers with strong levels of alcohol. As much as I love the taste of good beer, I'm not such a fan of the taste of alcohol. One of the biggest challenges for a Belgian tripel ale is to make a brew that packs a punch with a high volume of alcohol, but also to make a brew that masks the unpleasant sting of alcohol. Left Coast Asylum predictably had all the bite that is typical of a Belgian tripel, but unfortunately for me that was all I could taste. I couldn't really put my finger on all of the other flavors in Left Coast Asylum, because the taste of alcohol was absolutely overwhelming for me. I've definitely had stronger ales in the past, but usually the complexity of the flavors of the brew is enough to make the beer drinkable. With Left Coast Asylum, alcohol was all I could taste. I tried to be a man about it just power my way through the beer, but by the end it was almsot undrinkable. A heavy and bitter Belgian tripel like Left Coast Asylum may not be the best choice to sip by the pool on a hot day, but if you like strong ales that are guaranteed to put hair on your chest, then Left Coast Asylum is probably a good fit for you.

Cheers,
Ian

http://www.leftcoastbrewing.com/

P.S. In an earlier post, I referred to Asylum as being brewed by Lost Coast Brewery instead of Left Coast Brewery. The posting above has been edited to reflect the real facts. I would like to apologize to both Lost Coast and Left Coast for the error.