Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Quick Reviews and Short Football Rant...

Merry Christmas to all!  And Happy New Year as well!  Another Christmas in the rearview and it's kind of sad already.  A lot of work for one day, but I had a truly wonderful holiday.  Spent time with family and friends, received some nice gifts, and enjoyed quite a few craft beers.

First, the best of the lot that I had over the holidays--Goose Island's Ten Hills IPA.  This APA is 6.2% ABV and was poured from a bottle into an SPG.  This beer gives you everything you would want from a pale ale.  There is a creamy head sitting softly atop a copper-colored beer and as the glass was emptied, nice lacing remained around the glass.

Big scents emerge immediately--tropical citrusy fruit, some maltiness and hints of bitter grapefruit.  The taste is also quite good.  The usual bitter hops of a pale ale blended with a nice bready mouthfeel make for a very good beer.  This is a solid 4, but limited.  If you see it, buy it.

Now for maybe the worst of the lot.  Ridgeway's Bad Elf Winter's Ale, is a poor excuse for a winter beer.  Maybe I was expecting a true winter beer--spicy, hearty, delicious, but Bad Elf offered none of that.  Instead, the thin, pale IPA from England is just OK even for an IPA.  I believe this beer to be more of a holiday novelty than a serious brew, as there are other beers in their holiday line that are much better.  Some of those include Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout, Pickled Santa English Xmas Ale, and Insanely Bad Elf Imperial Red Ale.

To football.  The Pittsburgh Steelers were bounced from the playoffs Sunday afternoon, when the Chiefs back-up players were cheated out of a win over the Chargers (yes, I'm bitter).  But, that's football.  It stinks that the NFL officials wait til the day after to say that we fucked up--I already knew that, but would rather them keep it to themselves since the game was over.

There's always next season.  Speaking of seasons, before you know it spring will be here.  Will we see some more Orioles magic in 2014?  I hope so.

More beer reviews coming Friday.  Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year's to all.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Crazy CBFs

I know.  I missed last Friday, but I assure you that I did enjoy a few craft beers.  And even though it is early right now, I want to talk about two of my favorite beers.

First, last Friday, I sampled the always excellent Anchor Steam Christmas Ale.  Now if you've had this beer and really know this beer, then you know that the label changes every year as does the recipe.  Not only is the beer a wonderful experience, with tastes and aromas of Christmas--spices, malty goodness and a slight trace of mild hops, but it reminds me why I love the Christmas season.  With this great beer, I do something that has become a Christmas tradition for me.

Each year, I buy a magnum of the Christmas Ale and wait a year to enjoy it.  But, for today, I am reviewing the 2013 release from a 12 oz. bottle.  This beer is a solid 5 for me.  Beer was poured into a SPG with a beautiful brownish color with a creamy white head.  There are notes of chocolate, holiday spices like cinnamon and clove, all finished with a slight bitter taste reminiscent of a dark chocolate.  I love this beer.  Try it...you won't be disappointed, and at only 5.5% ABV, you enjoy more than one.

The beer for today, actually from last night around 12:30am, is another winter favorite--Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale.  First off, this is a far cry from the traditional gingerbread Christmas beers.  This is an American IPA (or APA), with a big 6.8% ABV.  Sierra Nevada makes many beers that I love, and this is one of them.

Forget the cinnamon and spices you might expect because this is a big pale ale that pours a somewhat cloudy amber color with a rich head and excellent lacing.  The citrusy, hoppy aroma remains a constant, with slight hints of earthiness and grapefruit.  This beer lacks the heavy bitterness typical of many pale ales, and that makes it finish with a nice smooth mouthfeel.  Excellent beer.  I would also rate this a 5.

As for a Christmas blog, can't do it.  Too much to say, too little time.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year as well.  In the meantime, drink good beer, enjoy time with family and friends, and if at all possible, do something nice for a total stranger.  And I don't mean just hold a door or offer a holiday greeting, I mean something truly heartfelt and full of Christmas spirit.  It will make you feel good.

Earlier this week, at a local restaurant with a good friend, he and I noticed a woman, perhaps in her 40's with two young children.  The woman wore a head scarf and was seemingly bald.  Maybe a cancer patient.  Regardless, I secretly paid her tab and was thanked by her waitress and the manager.  And you know what, it made me feel damn good.  Try it.  I hope she and her children have a fantastic Christmas.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Beer Friday

Welcome to another CBF.  I know it's Saturday but I'm trying my best.  Lots of Christmas business this week and very little writing.  But, I'm still in it for the long haul.  Things are definitely on the horizon.  Part one of my vampire novel is coming right after the New Year and I will also begin two other fairly lengthy writing projects.

You will find all of my updates here.

Anyway, who wants a cold beer?  (The answer to that is always a resounding hell yes!!!)   This week's beer is Blue Point Brewery's Winter Ale.  I would rate this a solid 3 (see previous post for rating info).

Blue Point's winter seasonal is somewhat of an oddball--it is an American amber/red ale that comes in at a robust 7% ABV.  The beer was poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a standard pint glass (SPG) and enjoyed while staring at the undecroated Christmas tree.  A blog about Xmas is really coming, by mid-week at the latest.

The winter ale is a crisp amber color, clear with a fair amount of lacing.  The beer smells of malts and doughy sweetness.  The first sip was like drinkling a typical red ale, save for the slightly higher alcohol content.  Amidst the malty goodness there is a hint of caramel that gives the beer a nice sugary quality.  There is very little hops to speak of, typical of a red ale.

Blue Point's winter offering is good, not a traditional winter beer that leans on spicy goodness for the flavor character.

Until next time, drink up and drink well.  And if you are in a store that sells beer and happen to see Anchor Steam's Christmas Ale, give it a shot.  You won't be disappointed.  Who knows, maybe I'll review the beer next week.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Beer Friday and a Writing Update

It's Friday again (well actually Monday) and I have a new beer review.  It would have been sooner but I was busy sleeping off my Thanksgiving turkey.

Today's beer is a real treat, a limited release, an expensiove one at that, and last but not least, a damn fine beer.

The beer is Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout.  This Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon barrels, is high octane--almost 30 proof, or nearly 15% ABV, three timers higher than the average beer.  Where to start?

The 4-pack of 12 ounce bottles aren't cheap.  They retail for about $23, but are so limited that if a store has them then chances are they aren't sitting on a shelf.  Instead, a valued customer might receive a psst and then a few whispered words.  That's how I came to buy the beer.

The bottle was sampled at a Tipplers Beer Society meeting on November 30th.  The beer pours a thick black and aromas of coffee, chocolate, and molasses burst forth, with a strong scent of bourbon never too far behind.  The head is thin, but rich in tannish color.  The first taste...ah, bourbon and chocolate stout.  The beer reminded me of Stone's Russian Imperial Stout, after someone poured a shot of bourbon in it.  The aftertaste is of roasted chocolate and coffee with the tang of bourbon lingering.

It's a big beer, but easy enough to drink.  Would you sit around and drink a 4-pack by yourself?  Probably not.  Especially at over $5 a bottle.  And for the first time, I will give a beer a number rating.  This beer is a solid 4.

I rate beers 1-5.  Here is how the scale works: a 1 is a horrific beer that I probably wouldn't drink even if it was free.  A 5 would indicate an all-time favorite, a beer that I would actively seek out whenever possible.  An example of a 1 beer is Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy (tastes like a lemon cleaner) and a 5 would be Anchor Steam's Christmas Beer.

On a writing note, I am in the final stages of (finally) releasing '9 of a Kind' and I also have a story anthologized in a book just released last week.  The link is here.  My story is 'Bernice.'  Support your independent authors and enjoy the creepy stories.