Traquair House Ale

Posted: September 3, 2011 in Scotch Ale
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I had a party last night and brought out some new beers to sample as well as some old favorites.  One of the new ones was Traquair House Ale, a Scotch Ale that poured a dark caramel brown with a slight cream colored head.  It smelled fruity and almost sour…possibly figs.  This beer tasted awesome!  Caramel and chocolate, some vanilla, pretty malty.  Sweet but not too sweet.  A very smooth beer, velvety even.  I loved this beer!  I’d definitely drink this again and suggest you find some and try it.


This Amber Ale pours a great golden brown, slightly hazy with a sizable cream head that dissipates quickly.  There’s really not much to the aroma of this one.  I was kind of expecting more from such a nice looking beer.  It’s kind of sweet and tastes mostly of malt and caramel.  I’m kind of surprised to find a California beer so light on hops.  There’s really nothing too interesting about this beer.  It’s not complex, or weird or anything like that, but it’s a good drink.  If I want to drink a nice local beer that I don’t have to think about, this is a great option.

Dead Guy Ale

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Maibock
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Tonight’s a warm night in the Bay Area, so I’ve decided to open up some Dead Guy Ale by Rogue Ales.  This is a German-style Maibock, which is similar to other bock beers only lighter in color.  It’s a clear gold with a substantial, though short-lived head.  It’s sweet malty scent is exactly what I think a beer should smell like, though that may be my years of Shiner Bock consumption talking.  It’s amazing…I feel like I should be throwing darts or shooting pool when I smell this.  The hops really come out in the tasting of this one.  Not nearly as malty as I was hoping, but not overpowered with the hops.  It’s initially kind of sweet but has a bitter finish.  Kind of middle of the road for carbonation, and pretty well balanced in general.  Overall, I enjoyed this even though it’s a bit hoppy for me.  If you’re a fan of hops but don’t like being kicked in the teeth by them, give this a try.

This is my first time trying a barleywine.  I stumbled upon this one by Lagunitas at my local Safeway and since Lagunitas rarely disappoints, decided to pick it up.  Plus it said “limited edition” on the label and I’m a sucker for that sort of thing.  Barleywines tend to the strong side and this one is no exception, coming in at 10.6% abv.

It looks amazing as I pour a glass.  A very deep translucent amber with a pale tan head that leaves some of the best lacing I’ve had in awhile.  The aroma is pretty sweet with some citrus fruitiness and just a bit of hops.  The citrus and hoppiness come out in the taste as well, but are joined by some significant pines.  It’s pretty similar to some of the IPAs I’ve had, but not nearly as hoppy.  It’s a smooth drink.  Not too watery, not too chewy.

Really this has all the deliciousness of a good IPA but without killing you with hops.  I definitely would prefer this over an IPA any day and it really makes me want to go out and find some more barleywines to see if I have a new favorite beer style.  If you know somewhere I can find a good barleywine in the East Bay/Napa, leave a comment and I’ll track it down.

Now that I’m back from my trip, I’m trying to update more regularly.  Tonight’s beer is Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.  I really couldn’t find too much information on it aside from the fact that it’s British.  It’s a very black beer with some unimpressive tan foam that lasted almost as long as it took me to load this web page.  The aroma is very chocolatey, but not the good kind of chocolate.  It really smells more like the artificial chocolate scent added to things like lotions and soaps.  Not very appetizing for me.  The taste is mainly a malty dark chocolate with a very slight bit of coffee and some bitterness.  I’m used to stouts sitting a bit heavier and drinking like a meal, but this is much lighter.  It did seem a bit flat, and I’m not sure if it’s usually this flat or if it’s because I’m drinking it about 3 weeks after the “best by” date.

Given that this is past it’s “best by” date, I may have to give this another try in the future, though I’m not impressed by what I’ve seen so far.  The chocolate tastes too artificial and the flavor profile is fairly simple.  I won’t be in a hurry to try it again.

Well, I just got back from five weeks in Romania where, in the name of research, I drank as many different beers as I could find.  Several times if needed.  I did not take extensive notes on the beers while I was there, so this will be more overview than detailed review.

Pale lagers seemed to be the popular choice with the low end options available in 2 liter bottles at the supermarket for about $2US.  There were several Romanian beers, but most bars also served Danish, Turkish, German, and Belgian varieties.  Nearly every beer I ordered was served in a 500ml bottle, which makes keeping track of how much one’s had to drink tricky if you’re used to counting drinks in 12 or 16oz increments.  Also challenging my buzz maintenance was the palinca.  It’s a homemade brandy usually made from pears or plums that the smaller establishment kept giving us.  (though I was told that they were only allowed to give us three each due to the high alcohol content)  I did find a couple of dark beers that I did some extensive sampling of…you know, for research.

Ursus Premium was basically the Budweiser of Romania.  Their slogan is even “The King of Beers in Romania.”  It might have slightly more flavor than a Bud, but it was a very uninteresting beer.

Ursus Black was a much more interesting beer.  It’s a Schwarzbier with a very dark pour and cream colored foam.  It tastes primarily of chocolate and malt and is not nearly as heavy as other beers this dark.  I’d definitely drink this again.

Redd’s was a fairly controversial beer among my traveling companions.  Some people loved it while others thought it tasted too “girly.”  I went out with three friends and we drank the restaurant out of it the first night we tried it.  It definitely has a sweet fruity taste and is almost more like a wine or hard cider than a beer.  Some of my friends referred to it as the “champagne beer” and it was indeed quite carbonated, but in a way that worked with the other flavors.  I was really disappointed that I couldn’t smuggle any of this back in my luggage.  If you want something sweet, fruity, and refreshing, this is for you.

Ciuc Premium is a Czech Pilsner brewed in Romania and was very easily forgettable.  I’m only reminded of the fact that I had one by the picture of me with it in my hand.  I actually switched to wine for the evening after the disappointing bottle of Ciuc.  Avoid this beer if you don’t like fizzy yellow water.

Silva Bruna was a little harder to come by than some of the other beers here, but I very much enjoyed it.  It’s similar to the Ursus Black, but nuttier and with a hint of molasses and caramel.  After I had the one pictured above, I couldn’t find it again.  I highly recommend it.

Romania seems to be behind the rest of Europe when it comes to beer.  I blame Communism.

At the request of my cousin, I’ve rounded up some gluten free beers to review.  The first is this blonde ale.  It pours a clearish golden yellow with a thick head and smells like a yeasty cider or dryish apple wine.  It’s almost hard to comment on the taste because it really doesn’t last long enough to get a good feel for it.  This beer has the most fleeting flavor of any beer I’ve ever tried.  The taste sequence is kind of: appleboozenothingbyebye.  After drinking all these California beers, it’s a bit odd to drink something that’s not overloaded with hops.  The mouthfeel is what I would imagine carbonated vodka to taste like: bubbly, boozy, and thin.  It’s so different from everything I’ve had recently that I really didn’t know if I liked it at first.  I’m not sure I’d drink this again if other beer options were available, but it’s certainly a drinkable beer for those who are on gluten free diets.  Be warned, though, all the carbonation gave me a nasty case of the hiccups midway through.

While in Napa last week, the second beer I was talked into was Grand Teton Brewing Co.’s Bitch Creek ESB.  It’s an American Brown Ale and the first beer I’ve had from an Idaho brewery.  I asked the bartender for a nutty brown ale and she really delivered.  I love that I’m in an area where the bartenders really know their beers (and have good beers to know about).

  It poured a dark hazy brown with a tan head and some decent lacing on the glass.  It smelled strongly nutty with some malt.  The taste was mostly nuts and caramel with a slight fruitiness.  It was a nice, smooth, moderately carbonated drink.  I really enjoyed it, and not just for the clever name.  This is going on my list of go-to beers.

A couple evenings ago, I had been hanging out with a friend, talking about beer.  Her favorite beer is Great White and when she found out I hadn’t yet reviewed it, she suggested we stop by Billco’s on the way back to Napa to try one.  I walked in, fully planning on having one glass of Great White and then returning home.  As we waited at the bar, I scanned the wall of taps to see if anything jumped out and grabbed me.  Well, hanging out on the top row was a little inconspicuous round red logo…Pliny the Elder.

Pliny is brewed by the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA and is considered one of the best beers available.  Beer Advocate Magazine rates it A+ and calls it “One of the best DIPA’s on planet earth, ever.”  In beer circles, this is on everyone’s list of beers to drink before you die.  I would have been a bad Beer Chick indeed if I passed this up.

Before drinking this beer, I actually hadn’t read much about what to expect from it.  I kind of like to experience a beer without any preconceived notions of how it should taste.  It poured a beautifully clear orange/gold with a fluffy white head.  I was very surprised when I smelled this beer.  There was a strong hop scent and…something else…  The smell was so unfamiliar to me that I was a good ways into the actual tasting of it before I figured it out.  Pine!  I’ve never had that smell or taste in a beer before (or at least not as strong as this), so it was certainly unusual for me.  There was also some subtle citrusy notes to it.  Oddly, it wasn’t as bitter as I would expect from something so hoppy…and then I found out later that it’s rated at 100IBUs.  So the bitterness is masked quite well by everything else going on.  It’s moderately carbonated and has a slightly astringent mouthfeel.  Overall, while IPA’s aren’t my favorite style, this is a nice beer to drink.  For those of you who like hops, this is a very nice beer.  If you have the chance to try this one, do!

Just a side note:  I realize I’ve been drinking an awful lot of IPAs for someone who prefers other types of beers, but it seems IPAs are the unofficial state beer of California, so I guess I’m stuck for awhile. =)


Posted: April 23, 2011 in American Amber Ale
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I ran into this at the local Safeway recently and decided to pick up a 6-pack. Censored AKA The Kronik is an American Amber Ale from the Lagunitas Brewery.

It’s a clear copper with short-lived off-white foam and quite a bit of carbonation.  The smell is deep and malty with a bit of caramel sweetness, but nothing too overwhelming.  It tastes sweet and malt with a little hop bite at the end that kind of hangs around a bit.  I’m really enjoying this beer.  It’s good without being too complicated.  A good beer to sit around and drink with some friends.  This beer should really be more popular than it is.

The verdict:  If you have the chance, try this beer!