Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Damn the Torpedoes - Hopaholic Goes Under with Sierra Nevada's Torpedo

This week, I tried a new liquor store. Always an adventure. Although, I must admit, I wasn't expecting much, as this one was attached to my local Shaw's supermarket. However, it's brand new, so I figured it was worth a shot, and plus, I had missed the train and so to get out of the driving snow for a minute, I figured I'd check it out.

I was expecting a lot of, shall we say, ohhhh, crappy beer. The kind my dad drinks, basically. If I got lucky, maybe I would score some Winter Warmer and be on my way. But no, I was shocked to see actual good beer, like Geary's and Magic Hat, and something else caught my eye. Something I had never seen: a bottle labeled Sierra Nevada, but a brand I was not familiar with. Torpedo? Something new? I must try it!

Sierra's newest offering is (as stated on their website, as well as the bottle) "a big American IPA; bold, assertive and full of flavor and aromas highlighting the complex citrus, pine and herbal character of whole-cone American hops." In other words, quite tasty. I find the term "American IPA to be a little odd, and usually the beers are odd as well. But this one was different. It was far superior than any American IPA I've ever had. The magic number on this one? A very strong 7.2% alcohol by volume. Right in the zone. And the good news? It's not seasonal. That's right, this puppy is their first full-production IPA and their first big change to their year-round line-up in over ten years.

I know that seasonal beers are always nice and all (absence makes the liver grow fonder...), but guys like me need beers like these to help us through these cold, winter months. And so, Sierra Nevada, once again, I salute you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Finding God - Hopaholic reviews The Reverend

Last week, I had what I think may be the finest beer I have ever tasted, and that is saying something. I've had a lot of different beers, and a lot of them I don't even remember, probably because they all run together, and probably because I'm drunk. But this one will stay with me for awhile, that I know.

It was The Reverend from Avery Brewing. It's what I call a "ten-percenter," meaning, of course, 10% alcohol by volume. Right in the zone. When ordering it, I asked the bartender, "Does it taste like ten percent?", inferring that some ten percenters taste like oil with a splash of hops. He said it did, and so I went with it. How could a holy beer steer me wrong? Although I am not a religious man, I was not disappointed.

The Reverend is very amazing. The ten percent-ness is covered up a sweetness and a nice finish that make you just want to keep on drinking (which is dangerous to do, kids. Take it from me.) I think, for any rookies, when I say it tastes like a 10% beer, I sort of mean teh opposite. It doesn't taste like most ten-percenters. It's tastes better.

The rundown, from the Avery website:

The Reverend, was created in tribute to the life of Sales Mgr. Tom Boogaard's grandfather, an ordained Episcopal Reverend. Tom was inspired by the life of his grandfather and wanted to create a tribute beer that contained his sterling traits. True to both our "small brewery, BIG BEERS" philosophy and to the spirit and character of the departed Reverend, this beer is assertive, and pure of heart, a heart of candy sugar. It contains as many authentic imported Belgian specialty malts as the brewers could cram into our mash tun, and lots of Belgian dark candy sugar stirred into the brew kettle.

Now, even I don't know what all that means, but it sounds pretty good, don't it? Well, it is. It is delicious. I mean, everyone needs to drink this beer. if they served it at diplomatic functions, the we may have world peace. I know I sound like a dithering idiot, but truly, I've drank a lot of beer, and this one is really special.

Sadly, I ran into a problem. I really could only drink one that evening, otherwise, I would have been on the floor (I had already tried a couple before I got the The Reverend). However, I knew that, unless I moved up to Southern Tier's Unearthly (also very good), anything I drank next would be a long step down on the ladder. So, I decided on one I knew, and went with a Sierra Celebration, because those will probably be going away soon enough. It was definitely a step down, not nearly as bold, but I did want to be able to get home, and I feel, as I get older, getting blithering drunk all the time is not something I want to do.

Now, if I could get drunk on just The Reverend, I might consider it. What was that Grateful Dead line? Ah yes:

"I may be going to Hell in a bucket, babe,

But at least I'm enjoying the ride."

But with a name like The Reverend, it's more like Heaven.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Keeping up with the Jonses

There seems to be a trend recently in bars across the city. Great microbrews used to be a staple of special bars and taverns (brew houses, even). You traveled to places like Sunset and Publick House because they were the only spots you could get your favorite pours. Or Bauer Wines on Newbury Street if you were spending a quiet evening at home, because they had bottles of your favorite, hard-to-find brews. And it was always worth the trip, right?

Now, I'm finding some of my favorites in a lot of liquor stores and bars all over the city. It seems like a lot of people are catching on, about to turn drinking good beer into some sort of trend, like 80's music or cocaine. I'm not sure if they are enjoying it as much as they want to be seen enjoying it.

So, while I am happy being able to find my beers almost anywhere, I'm also a bit disturbed. Somehow, this trend seems to take away the allure of drinking good beer. It's like I sued to be in some club that has now opened its doors to anyone in the world. Don't get me wrong, I like the taste of the stuff, and that's why I drink it (Well, and my latent alcoholism), but I worry about these newcomers. Will they ruin it by making it too mainstream? Like Nirvana? Will I be forced to find newer, weirder beers just to push the envelope further?

Well, no. But I will say that I used to enjoy beer tastings and beer festivals and events like that. Now, I can't be bothered because they get too crowded. I used to enjoy going because you got to talk to the actual brewers and find out about how the stuff is made (and I once got the full story on those guys from the Smuttynose packaging at a tasting). Now, the lines are too long. The notion of "free beer" has sunk into the drinker's conscious, and so they flock to these things. I even saw some people carrying a baby at the last one. What is that about? The strategy now is to simply camp out near one table and drink all they have because the notion of wading through the crowd is just too daunting. People, it ain't Disneyland.

You may ask why I care, since this trend has made my favorite beers more accessible. I don't know why I care, but it does make a little uncomfortable. Every trend has its poseurs, though and the first guy who kills himself by chugging 90-Minute Dogfish to show off to his buddies won't get much sympathy from me. I guess that's what troubles me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Reindeer Games - Brew Moon's Rim Job Opens New Doors

The other night, I attended a Christmas party in the sticks, and thus, had low expectations on the quality of beer served. I even brought my own six-pack of Winter Warmer just in case (Of course, I would never go to a friend's house and not bring beer. It's just uncouth.) However, I was pleasantly surprised to see someone had brought a twelve-pack of the Warmer, and also a twelve-pack of Sierra Nevada Celebration (which I've written about previously. Can ya guess that I kindsa likes it?)

But the real surprise came when I saw a gentleman rubbing the rim of his beer glass in a pile of cinnamon. I asked what the Hell that was about, and he said that he had brought two growlers of Brew Moon's Rudolph Red, and that is how they serve it in the restaurant. So, he brought along some cinnamon to go along with it. For those not in the know, Brew Moon is a restaurant and microbrewery that used to have several location around my area, and sadly they were all replaced by Rock Bottom, a wannabe brew pub if there ever was one.

Anyway, this nice young man invited me to cinnamon up and have a taste. It was quite extraordinary, actually. Two great tastes that taste great together, and I'm not really even a huge fan of red ales. But I love my cinnamon. Maybe that made all the difference.

What really amazes me is where people even come up with these ideas. Who sits around drinking and wonders what beer would taste like with cinnamon around the rim of the glass? And what other fantastic delights await us, waiting to be discovered by drunks? What if barbecue sauce tastes great around the rim of a glass of Harpoon and we just don't know it?

I say we try everything. Go forth, gentle reader. take a plunge or two and see what's out there. Dump cheese in your Sam Adams. Throw some salsa in your Dos Equus. You never know

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beet Writer: Hopaholic goes On the Road with Magic Hat's Kerouac, and some Other Tasty Treats

So, we have pumpkin beer, blueberry beer, apricot, watermelon, raspberry, all kinds of crazy things that drunk brewers can think of. What's left to put in our beer? Why, beets, of course.

Last night, I tried Magic Hat's newest offering: Kerouac, which the menu at Sunset Grille and Tap said was a "beet beer." I asked the bartender what was up with that, and he insisted that it doesn't taste like beets (and thankfully, is not served with beets floating in it like some of those blueberry ones), and it is surprisingly good. He also told me that at $4 a pint for 5.6%, it's a great deal. Being that I had already warmed up with a Golden Monkey and was feeling pretty good, I went for it. Also, I figured it would make for a good post on here.

The Kerouac must be so new, that I couldn't even find anything on their website about it. And had very little info, and even seems to have made an error on the alcohol content (or the Sunset did.) So, you'll have to go on my opinion alone here. Other than the funny pun in the name, I can say that it does not taste like beets. It is quite delicious, in fact. It is pretty dark and reddish, and quite sweet and fruity, which I normally shy away from, but this was really good. I imagined it was loaded with sugar to give it that kick, and my high blood sugar the next morning confirmed it. Oh well. Take the good with the bad, I suppose. Anyway, try the Kerouac if you can find it anywhere.

I was going to leave after that, but two young gentlemen were seated next to me who were obvious rookies, and I got a kick out of them trying to figure out Sunset's huge beer list. Finally, one of them turned to me and asked what was good. I must have looked like an old drunk or something. I suggested the Golden Monkey, of course. It was a few minutes later that he asked me if it was safe to park in the Rite-Aid lot down the street, and I realized he was driving. Whoopsee. After a couple beers they asked if there were any other good bars around (For shame! They were most definitely suburbanites). Even though they were already at one of my favorite haunts, I know it's not for everyone, and it was kind of a meat factory that night, so I suggested Big City or Wonder Bar might be more their speed. I do love poisoning young minds.

Anyway, that was my Saturday. Other than the Golden Monkey and the Kerouac, I tried the Anderson Valley Winter Solstice (quite a kick in that one, too, as it is brewed with caramel and their special holiday spices) and the Mayflower Thanksgiving Ale ('Tis the season, right? Oh, it's always the season for a 7.7%-er) Both were up to my standards, so if you see them anywhere, give them a taste. I imagine the Mayflower won't be around long.

That's all I got today. Hey, be happy that I could remember that much. The best news, I did all that drinking for about $20, plus tip. And that was enough to ensure my holidays will be happy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Winter Beer is Here!

Tonight, I felt the first real frigid temperatures of the season while waiting for the bus. I even saw my first puddle turned to ice. It is a bad sign, half-way through November, since we have December, January, February and most of March to go yet. But there is a silver lining in this dark, cold cloud: winter beer.

Winter beer is heartier than other kinds and other seasons. I feel like you can really taste it, not just drink it. Magic Hat has some of my favorite winters, including the Roxy Rolles, a hoppy amber, and Sierra Nevada will soon be releasing their award-winning Celebration Ale, which is my favorite Christmas gift. Even Harpoon Winter Warmer, which isn't hard to find, unless your local liquor store is sold out, like mine was, is much better than the average beer. these go with your traditional holiday foods, too, so fear not. No one will think you strange for drinking them at the table. The Harpoon is better with your desserts, though, apple pies and pumpkin pies and such. And finally, for my favorite beer label ever, the Smuttynose Winter Ale. Another amber, the Smutty Winter is probably the most warming and mellow of the bunch, and at 4.8%, feel free to have a few.

So, get out and enjoy the season, and the seasonals. These are just a few of the good ones, but, hey, we're just warming up. Hopefully.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Leviathan: The Search Continues...

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Harpoon Triticus and its mammoth 14% kick. This past Saturday, I went to the Asgard in Cambridge, and saw the familiar logo on one of the taps (the logo I recognized because I put it in my post, lo those many weeks ago.) I asked the bartender what it was, and he said it was the Leviathan Imperial IPA. Ah, so it was true. There was more in this Leviathan series. And at 10%, I could enjoy this and still settle in for an evening of drinking and baseball.

This was definitely different than the Triticus, not as think and Scotch-like. Still not to be chugged (and I can say this because I did down the last few gulps quickly) but certainly an excellent beer, one of the best IPA's I've ever tasted. And that is saying something.

The scoop on the Leviathan series? Well, from their website:

The Harpoon Leviathan Series surfaced at Harpoon in the summer of 2008. The series is an exploration in brewing big beers for adventurous palates. Leviathan beers will be brewed in 120-barrel batches. The beers will be available in 4-packs and on draft for distribution.

Crap! Summer? This is already Fall? Will I still be able to score this stuff? How many of them are there? Will it be back next summer? Will I ever see you again?

Clearly, this calls for a hard-target search or every liquor store, packy, bar, tavern, brewery or hole-in-the-wall dive in the Boston area. And if anyone sees or hears anything about this, sound the alarm and let me know. I will be eternally grateful.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Reputation Proceeds Me

First off, let me say something surprising. Fall is here (Well, no surprise there), and while this is one of my favorite beer seasons, I find myself continuing to buy Sam Adams Octoberfest. There's certainly nothing wrong with it (In fact, it's the ebst Sam makes), but I think I should be branching out a little. And it's not like Sam is even cheaper than other folks. I bought a six pack the other night for $8.99. Come on, Sam! Where's the love?

Anyway, that's not what I was going to write about. I had a funny experience at my friend's birthday gathering the other day. I was meeting the rest of the party at Mantra in Downtown Crossing in Boston, a fine Indian restaurant by day and apparently a club by night (which i only found out later.) I arrived first and so I hunkered down at the bar and asked what they had for beer. The selection was rather slim. I ordered a Taj Mahal (when in Rome, right?). It's a lager, which I tend to shy away from, but this one was good. Beer Advocate gave it a pretty bad grade, but I didn mind it. Not too big or small. Not too bitter. Tasted good, kind of thin. I'm not sure if it went with the Marinated Spring Chicken I ordered for dinner, but who cares?

The funny thing is that when the rest of my party arrived and I paid my bar tab, the bartender mentioned that he was looking into getting some new kinds of beer, and asked if I had any suggestions. I wasn't sure if I gave off some sort of vibe or smelled of beer, or if I have reached some level of fame, but it was kind of cool. I told him Sierra Nevada and he said, "Oh yeah. I've heard of them." I groaned and walked away.

I guess I am somebody.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Change of Pace: Wine and Wii

Just so you don't think I'm a beer-cat and never drink anything else, I went to a wine-tasting on Saturday. Now, I admit that I'm not exactly an expert on fine wine, I can certainly hold my own in the presence of others who usually consider beer their first choice.

In the scope of the actual wine-tasting "contest," where attendants try to guess the wine based on the description, I only got 2 out of 5, but I was impressed by the fact that the two I got right were my favorite two wines, and they were from California and Australia, two of my favorite regions for wine. So, at least I proved that I know what I like and I'm not just faking it or going willy-nilly out there.

But you can't go to someone's house for a wine-tasting without bringing something yourself, so I brought a Parker Station Pinot. I had never heard of this before, but it was given to me so I hoped it was good enough for the crowd I was in (and if not, well, I didn't pay for it.) It ended up being quite delicious, and a nice contrast to all the Merlot that people had brought.

But really, the true highlight was me, after a few glasses of wine, banging out "Don't Fear the Reaper" on Rock Band and getting a pretty awesome 99%. not bad for my first time, if I do say so myself. I think I only missed one cow bell beat that ruined my whole deal. I was hoping Walken was going to come out of the TV and shout, "More cowbell!" at me.

Anyway, as much as I enjoy beer, it's good to mix things up once in awhile. Do be careful with wine, however. It has never actually made me sick or anything, but it is a much different hang-over the next morning. I'd say the philosophy is the same as with beer; stay away from the cheap stuff and enjoy it. If you do have a bit too much, then just remember; the sure is more cowbell.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Into the Sunset

Last night, I went to the Sunset Grill & Tap in Allston, one of my favorite places, home to 112 taps and 380 microbrews, and I left wondering why I don't go there more often.

It was a friend's birthday, so we were expecting a bunch of people, which always lights a fire under me to try and be the best drinker at the table. I didn't see what everyone was drinking, but I think I did a pretty fair job. I started with a Victory Golden Monkey, a really tasty 9.5% beer, on tap no less (even the Publick House only has it in bottle.) It's a smoothy. Definitely make it your business.

When my competition arrived (the guest of honor's boyfriend, and the only other person that I knew in attendance who could possibly be a better drinker than I), he approved of my choice and suggested a beer I had never heard of: Harpoon Leviathan Triticus. The Triticus checks in at 14%, so high that they will only pour you 8 ounces at a time (barely a glass), but that's okay because this beer needs to be sipped like a fine Scotch. It tastes almost like chocolate syrup. I don't really know how to describe it, so I'll let their website:

Latin for "wheat," Triticus is a strong and dark wheat wine-style ale that
boasts 14.3% alcohol-by-volume. The blend of 50% wheat malts, including
caramel and chocolate, provides color and depth of flavor. Complex hopping
and dry-hopping lends a delicate spiciness and just enough balance to
complement its strength. Once brewed, the Triticus was transferred to
50-gallon bourbon barrels and aged at the brewery for over 2 months.

It certainly tasted like it's been waiting for two months to be enjoyed. There are obviously a lot of beers I have never had, but for me to have never heard of this beer, and from a brewery right in my backyard no less, is crazy. It is probably the highest AC I've had in a beer, and that is saying something. My competition was right, and he certainly didn't mess around, drinking three of them. I have to say, although I loved it, this is not your Daddy's beer. This one is for serious beer drinkers only. Anything with that much alcohol is not to be trifled with. but if you think you can handle it, give it a whirl.

I switched to the St. Bernardus ABT 12 next (I have a funny thing when I go to a place like the Sunset, where I don't like to get the same beer twice. Seems wrong when there's so many choices.) at 10.5%, it is the highest alcohol content of any of their beers, dark, fruity, and to quote their site, "the absolute top quality in the hierarchy of the St. Bernardus beers." That is saying something, because they have an excellent Tripel.

For some reason (I guess that's just what you do on these occasions), we left Sunset (after paying a ridiculously large bill) and went to the White Horse Tavern, a nice establishment, especially if you like pool (which I do not), the only problem is that the selction is obviously not what it is at Sunset. I was able to get Sam Adams Octoberfest, which I consider the best Sam has to offer and is sort of like drinking eggnog on Christmas. You can't go a fall season without having a few Octoberfests. I had two, plus some lame, cheap free shot that some girl was handing out. I also signed my life away for a cheap Zippo, which I may live to regret, but they always look so cool in the movies that I just couldn't resist.

Anyway, point is, the White Horse is fine, but nothing stacks up to the Sunset for selection and quality beer. The food is pretty good too. My only problem is that the crowd is usually pretty young, so if you're not into that, try going on an off night or during the day. And parking around there sucks, but if you're there to really enjoy yourself, you shouldn't be driving there anyway.

So go and drink yourself silly.
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