Thursday, December 20, 2012

TNBR: Stone Old Guardian Barleywine Ale

"Armageddon is almost upon us!"
"I got news for ya, it's already here!"

It's Thursday night! Yes, yes indeed. And once again, I welcome you, the Brew-Tang Clan, to another fine edition of Thursday Night Impact Thursday Night Beer Review, in which I commit myself to writing some more BS about a fantastic beer from a fantastic brewer, lest I want to be committed.

Seriously, that last part's in my contract signed in demon-blood ink.

Hey, speaking of demons, the end of the world is about! Yippie skippie! It doesn't matter if it's a Michael Bay movie or a WWE PPV, if Armageddon's happening, it's likely terrible enough to cause side-splitting laughter and Team America references.

You know what else demons remind me of (and for once, it's not Doom). Gargoyles! IDEA!

Stone Old Guardian Barleywine Ale

I'll admit, for a long while I planned on reviewing La Fin du Monde, a most excellent tripel brewed by those crazy Canadians, Unibroue... but then, I kind of saw this bottle of Anniversary XVI and... well, I'll review that later, but needless to say, I sort of forgot my surroundings, stripped naked in BevMo, and proceeded to run down the aisles shouting "Whoa nanny!" at the top of my lungs.

I'm weird like that.

I'm going to use the picture as an excuse to change the subject.

So instead, I went with another recent purchase of mine, Old Guardian Barleywine Ale by those arrogant folks over at Stone Brewing Co.. Naturally, like all other beers I've reviewed thus far, this beer is very complex and very intense and other various, italicized descriptors.

In case you're wondering, this is an American Barleywine, as opposed to the English style, which is usually not as aggressive, but also typically wonderful. For the record, I'm a barleywine fan, and if history is anything to go off of, I'm probably going to give this a B+ like 75% of my other reviews up to this point.

What do you say we find out?

Body’s an attractive copper color with some nice clarity… off-white head that doesn’t fizz to life too much, but it might’ve been a cold pour, which would negate any opinion on that front… indeed, there’s great retention and lacing and a nice, think regiment of bubbles marching upward to make sure everything stays looking good. Brian likey!

Brian want wingy!

The bottle is the ol' Stone standby: The Mr. Gargoyle. It's presented in Stone's usual, self-assured smugness (which is always quite a laugher when you read their descriptors). The gargoyle can get a little redundant after a while, but when you have a trademark that works, you stick to it. Good stuff.

Powerful scent of caramel, stronger than almost any brew I’ve tried before that blends with a booziness that really weaves together. Typically, this is where I make a Son-In-Law reference and display Pauly Shore doing his weaving thing, but I couldn't find the right image/clip, which I interpreted as some sort of divine signal that sometimes, dead is bettah

Anyways, there's a thin trace of hoppiness shows up underneath, but unless you really dive in there, it’s easy to miss. Good scent, albeit a smidgen one-dimensional.

 Lots of flavor packed in on the first sip, it really caught me offguard. Very sweet and sprucy on the pallet, it starts off strong and doesn’t let up. Nutty malts start this off before fading into a bit of a bitter hoppiness. Notes of vanilla and oak underneath with a bite of alcohol and hoppiness on the finish. Medium body and very smooth the whole way through, this is just a whole bundle of flavors in one brew making for a satisfying drink. This is the definition of a “sipping” beer. Chugging = not possible, lest you want to not taste anything for 3 hours... oh, and you want to get alcohol poisoning from the 11% ABV you crazy, crazy bastards.

As it warmed, the hops became a bit more pronounced, but never really caught up with the heavy-hitting sweetness... Truth be told, this is actually excatly how I prefer my barleywines, so I'm completely, honestly not complaining.

So here it is: the best beer I've reviewed on this blog thus far. I'm not one bit surprised by that, seeing as it's a barleywine by one of the more dependable breweries in the country. They may have their Arrogant Bastard personas, but the people at Stone do have a legit talent for brewing beer. That's pretty undeniably, and this is a testament to their ability. It's what you'd expect from the Gargoyle. 

It's also reasonable to expect the same of that '90s cartoon classic, Gargoyles!

Excellent stuff, and very recommended to any veteran of the craft-consuming variety.


So what have we learned from all of this? Well, I love the '90s and there's a Gargoyles fansite, for starters. Also, Stone and barleywines are both good stuff. And not "The Good Stuff" that you hear all of those Kenny Chesney fans talking about either (which I'm entirely grateful for, by the way), but like... actual good, tasty deliciousness. Who's going to complain about that?

Hope you enjoyed reading. Thank you, and in the words of  the immortal GZA: 

Konichiwa, bithces!

Monday, December 17, 2012

MNBR: AleSmith Anvil Ale ESB

Good evening, good evening, and welcome once more! We are live from San Pedro, CA for another episode of Monday Night Raw! The Monday Night Beer Review beckons us all to gather. Or you know, just me. Either way, I'm writing it.

That being said, I hope you're all prepped for that fresh week of laid-back, pre-holiday work that every employee spends contemplating why musicians like to spend so much time in, get this: only their underwear... Or is that just me? Because seriously, there's something weird going on there. First George Clinton, and now [punchline removed for purpose of mediocre comedic timing].

Awkward enough for you? Good, then let's get started.

AleSmith Anvil ESB Ale

Ah, AleSmith... I do have some experience with this brewery. Namely, I've had about 6 of their ales, and for the most part, they've been top-notch stuff. Needless to say, I'm fairly pumped about this experience. Good thing I'm pumped up, too, lest I want to pick up this Anvil!!!!... What? No? Shit. I'll find a good way to tie an anvil joke into this at some point, but that's just embarassing.

Anywho, picture time:

Hey look! It's a different glass! WOW!

AleSmith Anvil ESB Ale is, shocker of all shockers, an ESB Ale. Of all the beer styles I'm more than vaguely familiar with, this one has always been one of the most baffling for me. Not in that I don't like, mind you... just, I've bought things labeled ESB that turned out to be brown ales, ESB's that I never found consistent with the descriptor... My palate is legit confused, basically. So, turning to a handy-dandy Mr. Trust'em brewery like AleSmith should be the perfect way go, eh?

I thought so. Let's see what this lewd, crude, crude, bag of pre-chewded food dude is all about! (Hook? Anyone? It's not an Anvil or anything, but like... sigh, forget it).

An anvil is one of the worst comedic props ever (non-Acme division).

  • LOOK
Hazy orange-red, but that’s not what I noticed first… the initial pour gave me this absolutely ABSURD head that was basically the entire glassful. I had to let it sit for a while before finishing my pour, and that's what you see in the image above. Crazy-mad carbonation, though it’s hard to notice. Great retention and a nice enough amount of lacing makes everything even itself in the end. Mixed appearances on that one

The bottle itself is, as you can see, pretty basic all around. Just a good, old-fashioned 22 oz. bomber without much printed on their except the name in big, bold mocking letters. If this is the start of some sort of minimalist bottle-art movement that I haven't heard about, I'm going to be very disappointed.

Caramel sweetness with tones of pine underneath. Very pleasant and inviting. Second wave leaves a mixture of citrus tones and a sort of toffee scent. Really great and even mixture here… it’s just done really well and has one of those aromas that makes you want to stop sniffing and start sipping… so on that note!


Shortest section ever?
Very smooth body slides on to the pallet which follows the nose. A lemony taste fades after a bit and lets the sweetness take control. Caramel and grapefruit mix into a more bitter underbody. For as bubbly as this beer is, it’s actually very soft. Really well-done. Very quiet bite of bitterness on the finish. This is an incredibly well-balanced brew.

I'm pretty sure this is exactly what an ESB is supposed to taste like. I've had some weird experiences in the past, as said before, but this one's going to be filed under: great. I have to give Anvil props. As a beer fan, I'm very much into the balance and... wait! Wait a minute. Beer fans = metalheads = metal = Anvil... That's it! Anvil is an awesome metal-

Oh, come on!!!

Oh good, an Anvil reference and a tie-in to my unsettling musicians-in-underware-stream-of-concious thing. Well, that was a freebie.

I was quite digging this one, actually. This is a fun style for me, as it's largely about balance with an ever-so-slight hop aggressiveness (nothing like an IPA and maybe even an APA, though). Mostly they’re just well balanced and almost always sweet. A very strong example of the style and definitely a beer that you should look into trying. It might not be the best style to start the journey into craft beer, but once you start getting comfortable with brown ales and pilsners and the sort, this is the perfect next step.

Get a slow-cooker and make a spicy-sweet chili. Trust me, I tried it, and worked waaaay better than I expected!

Well, that wraps things up for this edition of Monday Night Beer Review. Not much to say in these footnotes, really. Be on the look out for future reviews of Stone Old Guardian Barleywine and other, strong, adventurous beers! I'll try and mix in an easy-drinker or two in the future as well. I've enjoyed writing these thus far, and I hope you're enjoying the style... you know, half-naked and middle-aged men aside.

Jesus, what the fuck is wrong with me?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

TNBR: Bootlegger's Knuckle Sandwich DIPA

Once more unto the breach, my dear friends, once more!

Welcome to another edition of Thursday Night Smackdown Beer Review. It's been a fun week of visiting old friends and finding new ones, and hey! I topped 20 likes on Facebook! Do you know what that means?... If you do, let me know, because I honestly don't know what this has to do with anything.

But I digress. This week, I found myself craving brews of a stronger variety, and by God, I've decided to just go all out and destroy my tongue with the proverbial right-hook-to-uppercut combo that is alpha hops and IBUs (International Bitterness Units, for the unawares). What's more, I've stuck to a theme and gone local again! And all of this amidst the craft vs. crafty discussion going on in the beer world of late.

What can I say? I'm awesome like that... but I'll put my egocentrism aside for a moment  and actually talk about that beer thing that I titled my blog after. (EDITORS NOTE: You named it after yourself too, you pedantic kumquat).

Bootlegger's Knuckle Sandwich Double IPA

Prepared to meet Chris Tucker, because you're about to get KNOCKED DA FUGGOUT!

The Double IPA. This style is like Juan Marquez if your tastebuds were Manny Pacquiao. Knocked da fuggout. IPAs are hop madness to begin with, and the IIPA takes this to its logical conclusion by routinely eclipsing 90 IBUs and up with alcohol content to boot. Not for beginners at all, so if hops aren't your think, steer clear. Steer very clear... like, this beer is Billy Joel behind the wheel clear.

Now, me? I'm a hop fiend through and through. I don't care of its Simcoe hops, Amarillo hops, or Cascade hops, you will hear me going, "Hell yeah!" as if I were under the impression that this style is Stone Cold Steve Austin.

So naturally, when an excellent local brewer makes an IIPA that has a bit of renowned status in the local beer scene (and with a score of 95 on its Beer Advocate page), your damn right I'm going to get my hands on it. For the record, Knuckle Sandwich weighs in at 10% ABV, so this is some heayweight stuff. Let's take a look at the stats:

Really beautiful body, for starters. Burnt sienna in color and with a soft clearness that paints a silouhette of the background. An inch-thick head foams up to life before bubbling down to a soft, white layer resting on top of the beer. Fast-rising carbonation constantly supports it and keeps it from disappearing altogether, giving it a really well-rounded appearance. If this beer were a lady, it'd be like... Amy Adams or something. You'd just like to have a conversation with it... you know what? This is getting awkward, let's move on.

Oh yes, I do like this label, by the way. Knuck tattoos are always really cool in my book (NOTE: only in film and beer label context). Can you imagine how awesome Knuckles the Echidna would be if he had D-I-P-A tattoed across his knuckles?! I'd totally grab a beer with that red sunnavagun.

Look! He even has 4 knuc-. er... thorn... thingies? I'm confused.

Oh yes. Yes yes, a thousand times yes. Just an absolute flood of citrus hits the nose on the wave of hoppy madness.  Strong pine and floral tones in this one, maybe a bit of an earthy undertone. A sweeter undertone of malts add a third dimension to the scent that every good IIPA must have. Excellent stuff here, all-around. I have no jokes for this one.

Stinging carbonation at first almost hides the powerful combination of flavors. First go is a citrus bomb with a tropical twist – grapefruit and pineapple blend in with a floral underbody. The more I drink it, the more a slight booziness comes into play, which given the 10% ABV, is something that can be expected. It’s not until I swallow the damn thing that I taste the bready malts underneath. The result is a surprisingly good bittersweet aftertaste that lingers for a long, long time. Excellent use of simcoe hops here. There isn’t much about this one to complain about.

What's that tastebuds?

Oh. You mean "Ouch." Too bad, I'm still drinking this.

IIPAs are, frankly, tricky beers to do right. Which is odd, because most of the time, I like the doubles I try. This one follows that right along with that trend. Hopheads and IPA fiends will most definitely want to have a go-round with this brew. Get some sharp cheddar, grill a chicken, and go to town with this if you get a chance, because it’s just that excellent… Unless you don’t like hoppier, bitter beers. In that case, buying this would just be silly.



I do love the character of this brew, by the way. The citrus character is super-reminiscent of the west coast... this is very much and IPA area. Hell, "west coast IPA" is actually sort of a thing, they're so big. That's one of the cool things about beer - the can change from place to place just because of your surrounding environment. Who doesn't love that?

And for the record: yes, Orange County, you're part of the L.A. area no matter how hard you want to be your own thing... Bitches.

Haha, owned!

Monday, December 10, 2012

MNBR: The Bruery Rugbrød

Hello again, my fellow lovers of the craft-brew scene! Hope you all enjoyed  a fine weekend of activities and that uh... holiday, cheer thing that's going around these days.

I, myself, had a weekend full of pleasantries and Christmas lights.

Also beer.

Anyways, let's pop the cap off of the proverbial bottle and drink down some lovely rye beer. Sound good to you? I hope so, because it sounds quite wonderful to me.

The Bruery Rugbrød

Ah yes, The Bruery... this probably the first west coast brewer that I get really familiar with when I used to visit my family a couple of years back. I made one hell of a decision when I went down that road, too.

From what I can tell, The Bruery (the founder's last name is Rue, just an aside FYI) is all about that Belgian craft. I believe every one of their beers are both bottled-conditioned (meaning they throw an extra batch of yeast in the beer before sealing off the bottle, allow for another fermentation to take place in the bottle) and unfiltered. Needless to say, this can be very intimidating for the novices. Or people who can't tell the difference between complexities of life such as 'front' and 'back'.


They are also into the Belgian yeast big time... as well as all sorts of other things - pie, sweet potatoes... fucking Thai food. It all can play a role in their beer. It works most of the time, thanks in part to an insanely complex flavor approach. It just seems like Belgian yeast always pops in, and Belgian yeast is some funky shit! Sly and the Family Stone would approve.

But enough about that, let's talk about the main eventer, here: Rugbrød (AKA Danish rye bread, and no, I can't pronounce it either). It clocks in at heft 8% ABV and is undoubtedly going to be heavy in the rye bread department. In the words of the DX song, break it down!...

Holy shit, I apologize for that reference.

A darker shade of auburn with a light, tan head that reaches very thick heights. Like, two-fingers… and it his staying strength. Very sleek and attractive, and super-hazy on account of it being unfiltered and the bottle-conditioning this beer went through.  Not what I’d call your standard rye beer, but it’s passable nonetheless.

Classic labeling style on the bottle (they actually have fancier-cut labels, but back and front, etc.). They have a fairly classic approach to their bottles, using those fancy-shmancy 750 mL bottles that make your relatives look at you and go, "That is some weird looking wine!" I love that. I really do.

As is typical with The Bruery, this thing smells of Belgian yeast in all of its funky glory. Truth be told, I really do love that funky Belgian scent. It's very unique, though understandably not for all. This is also true for musical funk, which I don't understand, because seriously, how could you not like George Clinton?

You know what? Fuck it. That's a big 0-for-2 on the images tonight. Well done, me.

Sharp notes of rye with a caramel sweetness and bread note on the nose, once you get past that. It’s actually pretty straightforward, all things considered. Apparently, Danish rye bread smells awesome. This is one of those times where a simplicity actually works in the beer's favor, and considering its brewer, this comes as a complete and welcome shock.


Very soft, light body sort of floats on to the tongue. Just an absolute tsunami of rye flavor… how they managed to pack this much into it baffles me. Sweet after taste has that caramel character from the scent, very pleasant and very appreciated. I’m still not sold on the use of the Belgian yeast, though, as it leaves that certain funkiness behind and it doesn’t necessarily mesh with everything else as well. Still, a good tasting beer, and a nice feel to boot.

The alcohol is well hidden and the finish is nice and clean. Stuff like this can be really easy to drink. Coincidentally, drinking a lot of this stuff will result in you getting Super Stupid.

And finally, we have an acceptable funk joke.


I had fairly mixed feelings about this beer. It's a bizarre mix of simplicity and complexity that never quite clicks as well as I'd like it to. I think if the Belgian yeast had some time to mellow, or maybe just wasn't there to begin with, it'd be most triumphant (Bill & Ted again, it's continuity!). As-is, this is simply just a 'good' beer that needs to be smoothed out around the edges. I honestly don't even know what to suggest pairing with this, so I'll just go with one random selection from The Bruery's page... salami? Yeah, that might work. I'm a fan of salami.


There you have it, fellow beer fiends. While this wasn't the greatest beer in the world, I really can't recommend giving one of this company's several other beers a taste enough. They have a really impressive lineup that consists of the fantastic Mischief and the masterpiece Saison Rue. Oh, and they're local, which is a total bonus! Don't forget support your local breweries. It's an important aspect being a craft beer consumer!

Drink up you guys... and try pronounce this beer's name, because I friggin' give up.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

TNBR: Green Flash Brewing Co. Hop Head Red Ale

So here we are, everyone! As the first beer review I'm blogging, I have to say, I'm quite excited by this. For starters, I get to drink a beer and blab on about. On top of that, I'm starting to hope a new tradition - the Thursday Night Beer Review (tm?).

Without further ado, let's get to it, shall we? Today's secrete ingredient is:


This is my first time ever picking a beer made my the fellows over at Green Flash Brewing Company, but after hearing so many good things about their brews, I'm not sweating it one bit. On the contrary: this dude's pretty pumped to try a new brewery... like always. Seriously, who doesn't like that experience?

Here, have a picture:

Now in crappy Cameraphone!

Hop Head Red Ale is described as a "Red IPA," which is not a phrase that pops up all of that often. I think it's a sort of covert title for a hoppy amber ale. You know, like how James Bond is secret agent 007. Much like Bond uses his title as an excuse to spread his seed around the globe, one STD at a time, this beer uses it's style as an excuse to spread its deliciousness across the tongue, one IBU at a time.

On second thought, scratch that metaphor. Is it creepy? Yeah, I think I just compared this beer to Bond semen... I don't know if that makes it suave and awesome or- Never mind, my bad.

The beer clocks in at a nifty 7.0% ABV

So, here's the breakdown on the brew:


Well, the first thing I notice is that this is just what it says on the tin. The color’s a dark, ruby shade with a nice, finger-thick tan head that disappears after a short while. Very hazy in the body... Like, Hazy Maze Cave levels, here. It’s not the world’s most attractive beer, but it’s passable. As with any good brew, decent lacing is left behind.

Like all Green Flash beers I've stumbled across, the label is straightforward and very much blends in with the rest of your line... Only it's color-coded for your convenience (though beware, ye Dog who can't decide which bottle you're picking up). While the coastal drawing is pleasant enough, everything about it is standard.


Hints of grapefruit with a strong hop character. Undertone is sweeter than your typcial "IPA" which is undoubtedly due to the fact that it's a hybrid red ale. Combination of caramel and bread combine with the hoppy, fruity scents to make, in the words of Bill S. Preston Esquire, a most excellent scent. As a matter of fact, it'd probably make a damn fine candle if some company decided to put themselves to the task.

You know what. I call that idea. It's mine. Back off, National Candle Association!

You dirty, thieving bastards!

Oh wow, that caramel sweetness is immediately noticeable. Not what I was expecting, but I’m not complaining. Flavor fades into the real meat of the drink: a good, citrusy underbody. Seriously, the grapefruit is STRONG here, and I’m loving it. Light, easy body with a softer carbonation. Good, clean finish that doesn’t leave a strong trace of bitterness behind. I’m really digging this all around. Really nice balance for an IPA.

I really enjoyed drinking this. It screams “west coast” in every way I’d expect an IPA to while adding another layer that makes it a much more nuanced, easy-drinking beer. If you’re a cheese person (AKA: if you're a goddamned human being), get some gorgonzola and slap it in a recipe. Maybe a burger or something. One of these days I’m actually going to try and attempt this stuff. If you can find this, definitely purchase a 4-pack. It won’t disappoint.



Welp, there its, folks! This about wraps up my first edition of the Thursday Night Beer Review (working on that [tm] if it isn't done already, because something on blogger is totes worth investing in). I think I may dedicate another day per week to this sort of thing... Sundays, probably.

Feel free to leave comments and thoughts. This behavior is encouraged. Given that I'm on the internet, I acknowledge that the prior two sentences is essentially the equivalent to advocating a game of Russian Roulette.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On My Reviewing Style

Before I begin to post all of my wonderful beer reviews, I feel it's important to establish my style and system for... er, rating beers.

Like any other high-end drink, you can break beer down to its basic components: appearance, smell, taste, and mouthfeel. Naturally, this system is basically the same as the excellent beer websites Beer Advocate and Rate Beer, but there will be a few personal twists that I'll throw into mix. Presentation is one (where I talk about the bottle design and other such nonsense), and like any good reviewer, there'll be that nice wrap-up called "Finale" in which I go off some tangent about good food pairings and that sort of thing.

I haven't really settled on a scale yet, but letter grades are an easy go-to for me, so that seems to be the likely candidate.

Please take note that I'm going to do my best to judge strictly by style... that is to say, if I were to give an adjunct lager (seriously, I'm going to pick on these things) an "A" rating, that would not mean that it's the end-all, be-all of brew. It would just mean that it is one of the top-tier beers of that style. This is because I like to avoid sticking my nose towards certain beers. Like adjunct lagers.

Because really, guys... they suck.

Oh Stag, I'm sorry... I'm so sorry.

Hope that you enjoy the reviews as I being to lay them down. Cheers!

Beer in the Grand Scheme

Starting a new blog is a bit complicated. The question lies with where to begin, and I guess I might as well answer the age-old questions that all are wondering about:

Why beer? Well, I'm just so glad you asked! 

My love of beer started probably around the ripe, underaged year of 17... granted, it was a love of your garden-variety adjunct lagers, but let's just ignore that for now (seriously, this isn't important in the grand scheme). Let's just look at why I turned to beer instead of all of man's other fine inhibition-destroyers in the first place.

IDEA: let's think about the Ninja Turtles. As a site I'm quite fond of, Cracked, once proved: everyone has a favorite Ninja Turtle... assuming you're familiar with those four, suave (?), green devils. They all have some major aspect in their identity you can identify with. You can like Leo and his alpha-male leadership, Mikey and his goofiness, Raph and his edgy, bad-boy status, or Donny and his techy, eclectic-spouting self depending on just how ridiculous a person you are. Me? I like Donatello... y'know, because I'm a dork. An eclectic dork!

Mhm... sorry. Closer to the point: alcohol has this in common with those turtles. Everyone has a favorite alcohol. There's your high-balling Scotch crowd, your dasvidanya vodka lovers, your straight-up bourbon drinkers... and those utterly disturbing mountain dew consumers.

Source. Question: is there a Pitch Black Moonshine?

Anywho, I naturally gravitated to beer for one reason: beer drinkers are sort of the metalheads of the alcohol community. We're those guys who won't shut up about how awesome our genre is and just... ugh, we're so fucking awesome!! I mean... uh, we love the variety that's there even if others seem to miss the fact that it exists. If you look at the surface, damn it, you'll only see Budweiser just like you'll only see Mudvayne... not that there's anything wrong with that. To each their own, right? Just so long as your own is metal as fuck!

I guess it all comes down to these factors: availability, affordability, personality, and variety. I just fit in with the beer scene. Good beers aren't hard to find, and high-quality beer is definitely cheaper and more accessible than any other alcohol. From bitter to sweet, fruity to bready, hoppy to malty, beer has an insane range of flavors and character. As for personality... well, this one is a bit harder, and I'll probably expand on it later. For now, I'll put it this way: beer is the drink of the working class. Blue collar, white collar, who gives a shit? You'll find something to like here. Whereas wine culture can give off an air of pretentiousness (whether intended or not), beer is the only other 'soft' liquor (SEE: not 40% ABV standard) that has following in my area that is worth noting (apologies to Koreatown and those crazy Soju-loving bastards... I love them all!).

And you know what? Surprise surprise, that following, just like beer itself, has exactly what I'm looking for:


So here's a glass to you, beer community! You've worked hard, but you've finally earned my adoration and approval... which, I know is exactly what you've all been waiting for this entire time. Hope that you don't stop brewing just because I actually like you now!