Category Archives: drinking it all

Drinking It All: #’s 43 & 44 Southern IPAs

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

Lots of stuff to catch up on. I’ve made some beers. I’ve tried some beers. I’ve joined a brewclub, so I’ve met some folks who also make some beers. I’ve also decided to start whittling away at the beers I’ve gotten and saved for this particular blog. When I went to the beer-fridge just now, I noticed that I’ve got two IPAs made by southern breweries: Abita’s Jockamo IPA and Good People’s IPA. So I figured I’d just knock both of them out at once in one thematically coherent post. I’ll start with the Good People (based in Birmingham, AL) IPA, which as you can see below comes in a can. Canned IPA. Why the shit not?

southern IPAs

This IPA is about as good an example of the style (at least my preference within the style) as I can think of. It’s super bitter, but the flavor of the hops comes through pretty well. And even coming out of a can, you get a smell of the hops way easy. (I’m trying it right out of the can and in a little 4 oz taster glass.) There’s not too much malt character at all–this beer seems like, as they say at Dogfish Head, a hop-delivery vehicle. And it’s good at it. Which is to say that this beer’d be like the UPS overnight of hop delivery versus Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale being the USPS Priority. Analogies!

Can’t really say enough good things about Good People Brewing Co. Being so close to Birmingham, I’ve tried a good bit of their beers, and I’ve not only never been disappointed, but I’ve always been super excited about the beers. They truly know their shit. Pick it up if you can.

My other southern IPA is Abita’s Jockamo IPA. I’ve had this beer plenty of times before now, so I’m somewhat familiar with what I’m getting into.

It’s not really fair to compare these two beers, or maybe it is, but I’m going to try not to even though I’m basically trying them at the same time. The Jockamo IPA (brewed by Abita Brewing Co. in Abita Springs, LA) is a mildish IPA in terms of the hop character. It’s certainly got hop bitterness and the hop flavor stands out from the malt base, but the smell (if I said aroma I’d basically have to drink the beer with my pinky aimed at the sky) seems more of the malt than the hops. All that said, this is a hoppy beer. And a hoppy IPA. And it tastes good. But it’s just not quite as dry as I like an IPA to be–it’s a little sweeter than what I want an IPA to be. It’s a full-bodied IPA, and if that’s the kind of IPA you like, then this is your kind of IPA.

So two good and different IPAs from the good old southern states. Louisiana is one of my most favorite places in the States for lots of reasons, Abita beers being just one (Walker Percy and Cooter Brown’s being two others). My wife’s from Birmingham, so it’s automatically an awesome place, but they also have a kick ass beer fest each year, and aside from Memphis, Atlanta, and New Orleans, they consistently get the best bands (have seen Man Man twice and the National once in B’ham). We here in the south might be last in lots of the categories we want to be first in, but we’re damn sure not last in the making good beer category.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? One thumb up for Good People and one thumb up for Abita.

Drinking It All: #42 Berliner Style Weisse, Brettanomyces Lambicus Special Edition

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

champagne pretending to be beer

I’ve finally gotten around to trying the Brettanomyces Lambicus I picked up in Atlanta about three months ago. I’d read about these brettanomyces (which is the type of yeast used in the beer), or brett for short, beers somewhere, I don’t remember where, and how the wild yeast that ferments these beers is such a monster that most breweries won’t let it anywhere near their regular fermentation tanks for fear of contamination. Basically, this type of yeast produces a sour flavor and smell in beers and can easily contaminate and ruin other tamer strands of yeast and beers. I usually like sour stuff alright, so I’ve been wanting to try these sour beers for a while, especially since they are made with what amounts to wild yeast.

It’s a 3% ABV beer, which means I can’t keep it around too long before it goes bad, so I’ve opened it today, hoping that it’s not already past it’s prime.

The beer is a little sour, just like I understood these beers to be, but also fruity tasting. It tastes a little like champagne. And the super light color of the beer kind of reinforces this taste characteristic in a visual way (i.e., it looks like champagne). I’m trying to think of a situation this beer would fit well, and, not to harp on the champagne thing, all that comes to mind is pouring it into champagne flutes and making toasts–it’s a super light (in color and taste) beer that, I think, could fool lots of macrobrewery drinkers into drinking a somewhat fancy Belgian style lambic.

One more thing about this beer–it is heavily carbonated. So much so that when I opened it, it kind of popped. The head could be called foam just as easily as head. So even more champagne characteristics. The carbonation does seem to take away from my ability to taste it–so I’m swirling the beer to try to get rid of some of the bubbles.

That’s a little better, but it’s still pretty tart tasting. And, one more time, champagne-y.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? This particular brett beer–I’ll pass on next time. But I will definitely look for other brett beers.

Drinking It All: #41 Guinness

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

guinness draught can

One word: yes.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Ditto.

Drinking It All: #40 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

Today I’ve got Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, which damn near unarguably holds the place as America’s standard pale ale. It’s a beer you can find at most restaurants/grocery stores that carry more than just the big three domestics, and it’s green label makes it pretty instantly recognizable. So it’s not necessarily a rare find as far as beer goes, and the tendency may be to discount its quality because of its familiarity. But to discount this beer would be a very silly thing to do.

Sierra Nevada’s one of the big, important craft breweries in America. They were/are an integral part of the craft beer movement, and they make a solid little line-up of beers, of which the Pale Ale is probably the most well-known. I’ve already lauded their Torpedo Extra IPA, but somehow still haven’t written up the Pale Ale any of the times I’ve had it at the house. Blame familiarity and the fact that I always just put it off until the next 6-pack. Not anymore.

This pale ale is a solid work-horse of a beer. It’s hoppy the way good pale ales should be, and, to be honest, it’s borderline hoppier than many IPAs. The beer features Cascade hops pretty prominently, and the hop flavor heavily resembles grapefruit. This is the kind of fruit beer (i.e., a beer that’s fruity without using actual fruit) that I can get into. And there’s just enough malt character to balance out the significant amount of hop flavor that the beer is known for.

The color is pretty standard for a pale ale (which may be due, in part, to the fact that Sierra Nevada has had such a hand in establishing the standard in American pale ales), and the smell is a strong, fruity hop smell–again, Cascade hops.

(A good friend of mine has told me more than once that he’s not a fan of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. He’s a bartender, so I’m always (even though I’ve heard the story before) interested to know why. (His response to the question brings up an issue that I’ve not yet really addressed on this here blog, so let’s get into it briefly here with the agreement that we’ll tackle it at length later.) As a bartender, his experience has been that some beer drinkers (of the slightly higher-held nose variety) will ask for a beer that the bar doesn’t have. (Given the place I live, it’s not hard to imagine a bar not having whatever specific beer you want to drink–we’re pretty limited by alcohol level in this state.) When they can’t get what they want, they’ll apparently ‘settle’ for just a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, usually with the stipulation that they be given a glass. And while this seems like a perfectly reasonable request, the problem is that it’s always presented as the kind of third-string, ‘if you don’t have anything else’, last resort of the beer drinker instead of a good alternative to whatever beer they’d initially had in mind. This kind of passive aggressive snobbery is likely to be enough to turn anyone off to a beer, and it’s not exactly a positive reflection of Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale in terms of quality. I’m not sure I’m explaining this that well…

Basically, Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale is a first rate beer. To have to condescend to drink it implies a certain amount of insecurity on the beer drinker’s part (yes, I’m talking about being an insecure beer drinker). Sorry that the bar doesn’t carry the specific style of beer you had in mind when you sat down. Life’s a real bitch, ain’t it? Guess you’ll just have to pick another beer and suffer through it. If you can’t order a good, well-made beer without indirectly pouting about it not being your first choice, well, then I’d rather not hear about your first choice, much less actually drink a beer with you. I have a feeling you’d make my brain hurt.

To get back to my friend, I think a large part of why he doesn’t like Sierra Nevada’s pale ale is that he’s just not nuts about the way it tastes. Which, good. If you just don’t like a beer, then just don’t like it. That’s the inarguable position that is every beer drinker’s right.)

So this pale ale is a good, solid example of what’s really good about American beers.  And in particular, American pale ales.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Thumbs up. This is the Fender Telecaster of American pale ales–does exactly what it does just as well as any other beer (guitar) and does it simply without a bunch of hoopla. There it is: this is a hoopla-free beer.

Drinking It All: #39 Stone Brewery’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

modesty's overrated

Today I’ve got another Stone Brewery beer to talk about–the Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. The Arrogant Bastard Ale is one of the more renowned craft beers, as far as I know, and I’ll admit my own lack of broadness in beer drinking because I’ve never actually tried the Arrogant Bastard Ale before. But my buddy Scooter has gotten pretty interested in craft beers lately and brought back a load of good stuff from his last trip to Louisiana. I traded him a Dogfish Head Palo Santo beer for this Oaked AB Ale. So I actually get to try a special type (i.e., the oaked version) of the AB Ale as my introduction to it.

The Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale is a strong, malty ale that doesn’t skimp on the hops. The malt gives the beer a heavy feel and taste, but the hops (I’m not sure what kind they’ve used) add a little bit of bitterness (not too much) and a little bit of floral-ness that kind of breaks up the heavy sweetness of the malt. Think of how when Mario busts bricks on Super Mario Bros. and the blocks pop into 4 (I think) little smaller bricks that explode out. Mario’s the hops, and the bricks are the malt flavor–it’s still there, but it’s broken down into smaller pieces that are easier to comprehend. It’s practical, applicable deconstruction within a beer tasting–don’t tell John M. Ellis. Or do, I don’t know. (Apologies for the wide gulf between references that may or may not add anything to the review itself. And for any mixed metaphors I manage to toss in.) The alcohol level’s at 7.2 ABV, which isn’t that crazy high. We’re still in the range of a beer you can drink one or two of in a sitting, but the alcohol, to me, for whatever reason, seems to add a warming character to the taste of the beer. In this case, it’s a good warming character.

The beer is a good rich wood color–somewhere between a red ale and a dark brown ale. I’m not up on my Lovibond scale quite yet, but I’d say it’s about the color of a Newcastle. But it seems darker. The smell, to be honest, I can’t give a good report of. (The pollen’s been gone for probably a month here, but nobody gave my nose the memo. So I have to basically try to inhale the beer when I lift the glass and I still can’t get a good idea of what it smells like.) I do think it smells like oak a little bit though.

Quick editorial aside: the AB ale bottle makes it clear that the ingredients of the beer are “[n]othing but the finest Barley, most aggressive Hops, clearest Water, our proprietary Yeast strain and abundant Arrogance…all with oak chips” (capitalization and lack of terminal comma sic), which fuckin’ awesome. Good beer, like good food, is 95% a result of good starting ingredients–it’s the brewer’s job just to not mess it up. But then I noticed this odd little caveat on the bottle: “WARNING: Some materials used in the colored decorations on this container contain cadmium [,] a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.” I guess as long as it’s not known in other states to cause these effects, we’re good to go. Maybe that gargoyle is ominous for a reason.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Thumbs up. Arrogance is not a deterrent in the case of it being well-founded.

Drinking It All: #38 Terrapin Rye Pale Ale

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

a modest IPA

Even though I know I said I was taking a break from IPAs and PAs, I’ve got a fantastic Pale Ale to write about today.  A friend brought me back a few Georgia beers a few weeks ago, 2 0f the 3 I’ve already written about here and here, but he also brought me back a couple Terrapin Rye Pale Ales. I’ve had these beers before on tap in Birmingham and possibly Atlanta, and I’ve always liked them. I’ve just never picked up a 6-pack of them.

I’m going to try to start getting these reviews in under 750 words, so I’ll forgo the rest of the background/context.

The Terrapin Rya Pale Ale is a basic pale ale (e.g., Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, Anchor’s Liberty Ale) but with a nice little addition of rye grain. This rye grain might seem at first inconsequential, but it adds a good bit to the beer. And the first thing you’ll notice is the smell. The hops are super-prominent and the rye grain adds a little sharpness to the smell, I think. When your nose gets inside the glass, you can’t help but notice how this beer smells. It smells good. It smells like a pale ale should smell, and I’ve had several many pale ales that I couldn’t really provide a clear description of a smell. (Since so much of our sense of taste relies on our sense of smell, it seems important that a pale ale (i.e., a beer that kind of lives or dies by its hop profile, much of which is identified by smell) actually has a noticeable smell. Terrapin’s RPA has it covered.) The hops are up front, and the rye is a definite part of the smell. You don’t even really have to try to smell this beer when you take a drink–I’ve gotten very used to having to actively smell the beers I drink, so I like not having to in this case.

But what about taste? Well, it ain’t all nose on this beer. The beer has a very clean taste, like Sierra Nevada’s PA, that shows off the bitterness of the hops, and the sharp rye taste lends a kind of woody taste that fits well with the grassy hop flavor. The beer has enough of a malt profile to leave a sweet taste in the mouth, so the amount of hops do well to cut the sweetness.

My one, arguable, criticism is that I’d say there are more hops in the beer than are necessary for a standard PA. It seems hoppy enough to be an IPA. But then, don’t misunderstand this as a complaint–I’m just taking issue with adherence to the form. Which I could easily be completely wrong about, but, to be honest, I’d rather it be exorbitantly hoppy anyway. So it’s not like I’m unhappy with how the beer tastes.

So the beer’s a good one. If you find it on tap, it’s worth a try. Like I said, I’ve had this before on tap, and I liked it then. There’s no reason I shouldn’t like it out of a bottle. Ergo, assuming you find your own beer-liking tendencies rather comparable to mine, there’s no reason you shouldn’t like this beer on either tap or in bottles.

(Kept it well under 750 words. Look out now.)

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Way up. Try this beer before any other PA that you don’t have strong feelings about if it’s (i.e., Terrapin’s RPA) available.


Drinking It All: #37 Stone IPA

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

somehow this gargoyle doesn't imply gothness

During our last trip to Atlanta a couple of weekends ago, Steve took us to Hop City where they sell homebrew stuff and tons of fancy beers and wines. I managed to spend about 45 minutes looking at beer before even starting to fill a buggy, and I came home with about 7 or so single beers (some in large bottles). Today, I’ve finally opened one of them up, and it’s one I’ve heard much about but never tried: Stone IPA.

Stone brewery is located in San Diego, and they’re pretty well-known in craft beer circles. You can read a little about them in Charlie Papazian’s Microbrewed Adventures book. I’m pretty sure I remember the owner of the brewery being interviewed in Beer Wars (which if you haven’t seen, you should, etc.). Other than that, I’m not much of a scholar on the brewery, but I figured I knew enough to buy a beer of theirs. And so.

This beer’s (like I said) an IPA, and the back of the bottle is, to paraphrase, not exactly modest about how they feel about the beer. They are proud, and the word ‘hop’ or some variation of it appears in one paragraph 7 times. Modesty isn’t one of their ‘strong suits’ and neither is subtlety either, I guess. So the beer should be hoppy.

And the beer is hoppy. As a 6.9% ABV IPA, it’s at home near the lower end of the strength totem pole, but the hop flavor could easily fit a beer with a higher ABV. The hop character of the beer isn’t so overwhelming though. It’s not at all the hoppiest thing I’ve had, but it’s getting up there. The taste is super hoppy and bitter, and the smell is hoppy (but to be honest, my nose is a little stopped up so I’m having a hard time telling just exactly what it smells like). The color is pretty light as far as IPAs go–since the ABV is relatively low for the style, the paler-than-many-IPAs color makes sense.

Tangentially-related side note: I’m afraid I’m starting to wear myself out on IPAs. It’s getting hard to be able to tell the difference between the many super-hoppy beers that I like so much. Neither my nose nor tongue is trained enough to recognize different hop varieties, and since that’s the case, I’m starting to wonder how I’ll be able to rank the different IPAs I try. (Not that the goal here is to rank them, but it’s at least kind of the goal, right? If I can’t tell the difference, then I should just stick to one and forget the rest. But then what if I pass one up that’s just hoppy enough to make steam shoot out my ears–see? How else do I differentiate the IPAs other than levels of hoppiness? There are ways, I’m sure, but I don’t know them.) And so I’m also starting to wonder if I should stop drinking IPAs so indiscriminately and adopt a more panoramic view of the beer aisle. Then when I periodically try an IPA, maybe I’ll be able to more easily tell what its prominent qualities are. And also, just imagine a panoramic view of the beer aisle. Yes.

This beer I like. Even though I might not be able to articulate very well why I like it (which, I know, then what’s the point of writing about it and expecting people to read it and actually get some kind of mental/gustatory sense of the beer if I can’t explain why I like it in fewer than 600+ words at this point?), I’m betting that if you’re reading this, you’ll be likely to take a chance on it. Also, look at the bottle. Fuckin’ gargoyle on it.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Up. But don’t ask me why.