Pliny The Younger: Worth the hype?

Pliny the Younger is a Joke.
There you go, those are the most controversial words I have ever written on this blog and I stand by them.

The beer comes from one of the most highly regarded and beer geek loved breweries in the country, Russian River. Without a doubt this is one the most over hyped beers of all time. There have been others such as Westvleteren 12 and of course Deschutes Abyss but those beers dont really disappoint the way the Younger does. Billed as a Triple IPA it is Pliny The Elders bigger but 'younger' brother clocking in at 11.0%ABV, 1.098 O.G and is dry-hopped four times. Blah blah blah. That is marketing speak for 'buy this beer'.

Anyway the first kegs of Pliny The Younger (history of the name) this year have begun popping up in Portland and the hype is reaching capacity.

Review Panel: Deschutes Jubel 2010

So Deschutes was kind enough to send me a bottle of their new Jubel 2010, sometimes it is actually sweet to be a blogger. I was looking forward to trying this beer as it was not too long ago I had a vintage bottle of Jubel 2000. I assembled a panel of 3 reviewers including myself to review the beer. But before we get into that lets look at Deschutes product description directly from their website...

Reaching the APEX

As far as new beer bars and breweries opening this year goes there are two places that have me really excited, one is Alchemy Brewing and the other is Apex, a new taphouse opening on the corner of SE 12th and Division. Kitty corner to The Beermongers.
 (Renata, New Belgium brewer I cant recall's name, Jesse in the red and myself on the far right from the good old Lo-Lo and Jim Parker days of The Green Dragon)
                   ("King" C, "Snob" Ritch, Angelo from Brewpublic and Jaime of Hopworks)

My good buddy Jesse "The Beer Guy" or "Wolverine" has been a fixture in the Portland beer scene for awhile. I first met him when he worked as the local New Belgium brewing rep. Both of us were regulars at the original Green Dragon and I think that Apex is going to be what Green Dragon should have/could have been.

Know Your Brewer: Carston Haney of Alameda Brewing

 Alameda Brewing on NE Freemont in Portland, OR has been turning out solid to great beers for about 9 years now without a whole lot of buzz even though they have won medals such as my favorite Black Bear XX Stout that has won the Gold Medal at the 2003 GABF. Silver Medal in 2006 and 2008 in the foreign-style stout category.
Recently though relatively new Head Brewer Carston Haney has been freshening things up with Imperial Stouts and IPA's as well as barrel aging various brews and their are more changes for the brewery on the way.

I often run into Carston around town at the usual watering holes and share a beer so it seemed like a good idea to go hang out with him at the brewery and do a little more chatting on the record about all the stuff I have known about for awhile.

San Francisco Beer Week In Review

From guest writer and Tapliser CBO Kerry Finsand

After hearing how great of a time Ezra had at the 2009 San Francisco Beer Week, my wife and I decided we needed to head down and check it out. We decided to attend during the beginning of the week since we wanted to experience the opening gala and Double IPA festival. There is so much to talk about and is it hard to remember everything (too much beer) so I have decided to write this post covering the highlights and one major disappoint of the beginning of SF beer week.

Let’s start with the highlights. The SF beer week Opening Gala at Yerba Buena Center For The Arts. For an extra $10 you get VIP access to the event (VIP tickets were $55 each) and it was well worth it. No line to enter the event, no lines for beer, and a chance to socialize with the brewers before the masses arrive. The tickets covered entry to the event, a commemorative glass, and unlimited beer. it was exciting to learn about breweries that I have never heard of before and make some new contacts for the recent expansion of Taplister into San Francisco. Now I have to warn you, I don’t remember everything from the opening gala. I am not use to attending festivals where you don’t have to pay tokens for each sample, I definitely got my moneys worth. We sampled beers from familiar breweries like Firestone Walker, Magnolia, and 21st Amendment and unfamiliar ones like Napa Smith Brewery, Black Diamond Brewing and dozens of others. It was nice to see some familiar faces as well. Charles Culp from An Ear For Beer and some of his friends were also at the opening gala.

Come On & Get Hoppy: The next highlight of the trip was the Double IPA Festival in Hayward, California at the Bistro. From downtown SF Hayward is about 25 minutes via Bart and the festival was a few minute walk from the train station. We got there early so we avoided having to stand in line. Entry is free but it cost $35 for a glass and 5 tokens (a bit pricey). Looking over the list of beers at the event we noticed that they had Pliny the Younger. This was exciting because we had heard that at the Pliny the Younger release the beer sold out in 5 hours. The beer was super hoppy, but well balanced for having 100+ IBU’s. It does not drink like a 11% beer so having a few pints of this will make anyone feel pretty happy. We both enjoyed it, but prefer Pliny The Elder which is very hoppy as well but smoother. The People’s Choice winner at the IPA fest was Pliny the Younger. Some other good beers to note were the Welcome Back Wipeout IPA by Pizza Port Brewing, Stone Brewing Ruination & Sublimely Self Righteous, and Casey Jones Imperial IPA. A quick tip, the festival area is pretty small and by the time we left in the early afternoon it was getting pretty crowded so getting there early is the way to go. On the way back to the Bart we ran into Ninkasi front man Jamie Floyd who was there promoting Tricerahops.
Beer in The City: Another place that we enjoyed was a small beer store called City Beer located in San Francisco in the SOMA neighborhood. This place has 5 or 6 taps and 500 bottles of beer. The place was packed when we got there but we decided to hang out and try the Sea Monster Imperial Stout from Ballast Point Brewing. This is a great beer and definitely worth trying if you come across it. I would recommend if you are in SF to stop by this quaint beer store to see what is on taps and to peruse the beer selection.

Save the Best for Last: All I have to say is Russian River rocks! By far this was our favorite part of the trip. While we enjoyed all of the places we visited in San Francisco we were not always into the vibe. Hanging at Russian River felt like being in Portland. Their brewpub would be a cross between Roots & Lucky Lab. Great beers, laid back people, good food and service. The drive up to Santa Rosa was well worth it. They did not have Pliny The Younger on tap but we had plenty of other excellent beers to enjoy and made the most of it by getting the 15 beer taster tray (its a steal for $16). While were trying all of their delicious beers we indulged in an order of Pliny bites, which are tasty chunks of pizza dough with cheese & jalapeƱos and a side of marina sauce.
Disappointment: The major disappointment was Bear Republic. Before our trip to their brewpub in Healdsburg we have never had a bad beer from Bear Republic. Unfortunately this was not the case for this visit. After dropping $24 on their 15 beer sample tray we were very excited to start tasting beers. The first beer we tried was diacetyl and the next and the next. They were all diacetyl which was pretty frustrating. Later we found out from a SF local that they don’t clean their lines there. It was surprising that an award winning brewery that claims to be “the home of the best IPA in the USA,” would put out such a bad product at their brewpub. When I got back in town I had the Apex IPA at the EastBurn and it tasted fine to me. At least their production facility down the street is still making good beers.
With over 200 events spanning the bay area over 10 days I highly recommend if you are a beer geek to plan to check out the 2011 San Francisco Beer Week. Cheers to the San Francisco Brewers Guild for putting on a well organized event, keeping us informed with their cool website, email newsletter and iPhone app.

SF Bound and Down

Hey all this is not a real story but I just wanted to let everyone know their probably wont be any posts until mid/early next week as I am heading to my old stomping grounds San Francisco or SF (don't call it Frisco!) for the tail end of SF Beer Week and of course the world famous Toronado Barleywine Festival. Look for coverage of all of SF Beer Week by other contributors later next week.

Here are just a few of the events I am planning to attend:

Organic Bacon Brown ale by Uncommon Brewers release party at the Church Key.
This must be a new beer place because I have never heard of it. I am so glad I am making it to try a bacon beer. Their must be only a couple people that have ever had a commercially made one and I have been wanting to try my hand at producing one myself.

Meet The Brewer: Tyler King of The Bruery at the Alembic.
This event is doubly cool because I love The Bruery and you rarely see them on draft. Cant wait to talk to their head brewer about some of their experimental brews.
This also takes place at the Alembic which I have been wanting to check out. My understanding is its a fancier bar that takes the taphouse and combines it with craft distillers and cocktails.

Beer Cocktails at The Alembic.
Every day of SF Beer Week bartenders will be creating unique beer cocktails with hard liquor. This sounds really interesting as I have not yet had a chance to delve into this new trend.

Sierra Nevada head brewer Terrence Sullivan at Zeitgeist.
I love SN and I love Zeitgeiest. How can you go wrong?
To top it off SN has brewed a special beer with Zeitgeist called Hoptimum and this event goes to midnight. Fuck yeah. If your not familiar with Zeitgeist it is a combo biker bar and beer bar with an amazing patio and southern comfort food. And when I say Biker Bar I dont mean motorcycles. I mean bicyclists. There is always tons of bikes at this place and many of SF's large community of bike messengers make it home.

Cellar Beers and Strong Beer pairings at Magnolia.
Magnolia may be the best brewpub in SF specializing in cask beers. They are going to be breaking out cellar beers and strong beers paired with snacks every single day.

Pre-Barleywine Brunch at Magnolia.
Fresh Blue Bottle coffee, cask session beer and build your own traditional english breakfast and choose from sausage, kippers, baked beans, homefries, fried kidneys, grilled tomatoes, and black pudding??
Hell yeah this will prepare me properly to go into the main event...

Toronado Barleywine Festival.
This is obvious. No where will you find so many amazing and rare beers in one place, let alone a place this small and over just 2 days. Not sure how many beers they have this year but I seem to remember it was around 60 last year.

Wish me luck and for my survival and I will catch you on the other side!

SF BEER WEEK website

Review: Spints Alehouse

 Spints Alehouse recently opened on the new "3 Corners of Beer", just off NE 28th and Glisan in an old leather shop. That may sound bad, but the space is great, and you would never know it was ever anything but a restaurant/bar. The decor is very warm and inviting - dimly lit with candles and beautiful mahogany tables and bar. I am going to attempt a review of Spints, keeping in mind I am no food critic or Cooking Asshole.

From their website, owner Alyssa Gregg writes:
Spints is an alehouse featuring Northern European cuisine and eclectic blend of local and regional beers.  In addition, our cocktail menu  focuses on local distillers along with in-house craftsmanship.  I will be acting as both owner and executive chef.
The cuisine’s main focus is on traditional German food, but has some influence from Belgium and Northern France to add some lighter fare.  Overseeing the management of the bar is Ted Charak, formerly of Teardrop Lounge.

Beer Review Panel: Sam Adams Noble Pils

The prestigious Boston Beer company cranks out some run of the mill stuff and some fantastic beers as well. In my book they have a pretty awesome track record when it comes to lagers (lets not mention Triple Bock) with their flagship Boston Lager but the real beer geek winner has been their Imperial Pilsner. A beer so highly hopped with classic german Hallertau hops that it tastes like your sucking on a cone.

So it was with some eager anticipation that a regular strength Noble hopped Pilsner was released in 6 packs.

On to the review, each of 3 reviewers write a bit about the beer and then score it on a 0-5 scale in .5 increments. For this panel we have 3 highly esteemed beer geeks from around town.

Review Panel: New Belgium's Ranger IPA

New Belgium is a loved and hated brewery. Many beer geeks look down upon their introductory level flagship beer Fat Tire. That beer is basically a one note twist on an amber ale, it pays New Belgium's beers and they do some cool stuff with the extra cash. Their Lips Of Faith series has come out with some interesting if not great beers like the Dandelion Ale and of course the infamous La Folie.

New Belgium has pretty much maintained consistently offering belgian inspired beers or atleast different twists on american/english styles until now. I suppose you can only resist brewing an IPA for so long and now they have unleashed the Ranger India Pale Ale. When I heard what hops they were using; Simcoe, Chinook and Cascade, I was pretty stoked. Those are definitely some of the best hops around and have went into defining the NW style of IPA's and I know NB is nothing if not competent.

So anyway let's get into the review panel from 3 different beer geeks, each rates the beer on an overall scale of 0-5 in .5 increments.

Update: Better Know A New Brewery: Solstice Brewing

Last week I caught up with business partners Joseph Barker and Tim Czuk of the upcoming Solstice Brewing. If you havent heard about Solstice it is a new brewpub in the planning stages for next summer, you can read more about it here.

Not far from their planned Woodstock location I got to crash a house warming party that the Solstice founders were catering with some of their fine homebrews. On tap was a Pale Ale and their Imperial IPA.

A Blind Tasting of Cascadian Dark Ales

Just before the Cascadian Dark Ale symposium at Belmont Station a little over a week ago I organized the first ever Blind Tasting for this blog. For those that don't know a Blind Tasting you try the beers with no knowledge of what they are. This erases preconceived notions you have about the style and/or brewery. Most interestingly often you find beers you thought you liked a lot arent as good and others you like more then you might have thought.

The theme for this tasting was of course Cascadian Dark Ales (CDA's) aka Black IPA.
I collected 10 different interpretations of this style. They varied quite a bit. Some were of typical IPA strength and some were doubles. Some were older versions and some were belgian or blended.
If you would like to know more about the style you should read my post on the matter here.
                                    (Jason Wallace and Brady Walen photo by Angelo De Ieso)
Brady Walen of The Daily Pull, Angelo De Ieso of Brewpublic, Jason Wallace of Portland Beer and Music and Abraham Goldman-Armstrong of Northwest Brewing News and the Organizer of both the Cascadian Dark Ale Symposium and the North American Organic Brewers Festival.

Review: Red Hook' Copper Hook

So I got an email a week or so ago from a nice PR guy working for Red Hook offering to send me a free sample of their new seasonals. My first thought was thanks but no thanks. Red Hook has gotta be one of the worst of the so called "craft" breweries. But then I thought well maybe its one of their semi-interesting new big beers like the Barleywine Treblehook or the Double Coffee stout. But no, it was their new year round 6 pack beer Copper Hook. I begrudginly accepted.

Well I received it the other day in a nice package. I split a bottle with "Snob" Ritch and "Beer Geek" Amy. Let me describe it this way, I have not had the pleasure to try Budweiser's American Ale yet but I imagine it tastes exactly like this. Super light with just a little malty backbone and the faintest touch of hops. The aroma is almost sour but not at all in taste. Its super light and has very little flavor. Absurdly bland.

Now I dont know if you have had a "Copper" ale before. It's not really a style. It's sort of like a cross between and Amber Ale and a Pale Ale. Not as malty as an amber and not as hoppy as a pale ale.
I am most familiar with McMenamin's Hammerhead which is a Copper Ale. That beer is much better than Red Hook Copper Hook.

In closing, don't buy it accept maybe to bring to your buddies Coors Light kegger over Super Bowl weekend.