Category Archives: samplers

Lompoc Holiday Preview

I had a chance to try six of the eight upcoming holiday ales from Lompoc because two of them hadn’t been brewed yet. It was a fine evening to spend at the Sidebar, with tales of brewing and recollections of Don Younger, including the classic, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning.” I can’t speak for anyone else but I certainly had a good time. And by god, I need to make a shirt with Mr. Younger’s quote on it. That should make money, damnit.

Here’s what I thought of the beers I tried that evening.

lompoc holiday set 1
From R-L Jolly Bock, 8 Malty Nights, Franc’ly

The Jolly Bock was a malty, red lager that they said wasn’t quite finished yet. It showed: the beer was a solid, malty brew it had only the barest hint of hop bitterness at the end to balance it out. The lack of strong carbonation held it back I believe, but not by much. Should be fine come it’s release near the end of the month.

8 Malty Nights, a beer inspired by the Chaunkah holiday (it was even blessed by a rabbi, the first year they made it!) had great roasty chocolate flavors in the nose and through the mouth. I found it to be one of the highlights of the evening and I’m told it’s going to be bottled this year, so I look forward to getting some of that to share with friends.

The third beer, Franc’ly Brewdolph is one that I have a little trouble with. It had been aged in Cabernet Franc barrels and just blended that day when I tried it, so there was practically no carbonation to it; this beer definitely resembled a fresh beer, just brought out to play.

But it was good. Really good: someone mentioned that it tasted like cranberries and that’s not an unfair description: the tartness at the end was right out of a nice dry white wine and I really liked this beer! This beer is going to change, though: carbonation is, I’m told, going to subdue the oak flavors a bit and bring up the fruit, and the tartness should mellow a little. However I don’t want it to; I want people to try this one because it’s really tasty.

That said…I also really want to try it when it’s carbonated too, to see how it changes. I have no doubts that the Franc’ly will be a good beer and represent Lompoc well at the Holiday Ale Fest, I’m just curious if the changes will be for the better or even out.

Lompoc holiday beers 2
From R-L, C-Sons, Old Tavern Rat, wee heavy

The C-sons Greetings was a definite highlight of the evening. My notes say ‘Pine sword across the tongue!’ It’s a really good IPA and this year’s batch should be given to anyone who enjoys NW style IPAs.

Old Tavern Rat was the penultimate brew and, despite being a barleywine, had a very strong bitter note at the end, uncharacteristic for the style. It was explained to the crowd that this year, the OTR was brewed on a different system; the one at the main brewery, instead of where they had usually done it, at the NW 23rd location. Despite knowing the new system might provide more hop bitterness at the end and planning for it, this beer came out a bit different than expected.

Which I find comforting as a home brewer. Even the professionals occasionally have trouble with their alchemic processes! I also find it really interesting: they took a recipe they knew well and were able to adjust, yet brewing on a different system-a set of tools they knew well-led them to making a beer that was different than expected.

That’s fascinating, to me. Now, the OTR may or may not be for you but I think it will be worth trying some this year and comparing it to last year’s batch, should you have some, or next year’s batch, when it comes out.

Finally, there was a bourbon barrel aged wee heavy, brewed in conjunction with LOLA. This spent months in barrels and was made with fifty pounds of molasses! This beer is a strange one, in a good way. The nose is very bourbony and had me thinking it was going to be really potent. But the mouthfeel was very light, the ABV only 7.5%, so it drank like a much lighter beer. Really a wonderful drink and I recommend trying it if you get the chance.


I was able to visit Bushwacker Cidery a couple weeks back and the girlfriend and I got sampler trays.

I know, I know, cider in a beer blog?

But I like libations of all sorts and mixing things up is good to help keep the palate interested.

Which brings us to the sampler tray:

cider sampler

Pretty eh? Colorful and luminous, ciders don’t offer the same kind of weight that some styles of beer will. They’re all pretty drinkable and while the Bushwacker isn’t huge, it feels pretty spacious so it’s easy to get comfortable while you try out their wares.

In addition, they server multiple beer-cider mixes. I’m not sure if these would be officially called cocktails but we had a couple and they were very pleasant. I’m not going to insist that cider be a seasonal drink but I do think that Bushwacker is a place people ought to stop in during the summer months.

The drawback to cider, for me, is that there is no nose. Of the 6 samples, I could really only get a scent off the blackberry cider and the ability to smell it helped push it to the fore of my favorites. The house cider was also very tasty, so resembling a white wine that the girlfriend and I agreed that if we hadn’t been told it was cider, we could have easily mistaken it for wine.

The lack of a nose on most of these samples though made it difficult to get a sense of them. Smell matters a lot and every good beer taster will start of with how it looks and smells. Tasting ciders, as a result, present some challenges I’m not used to. It’s possible that they should be approached more like wine, breathing in little sips of air while the cider is in your mouth, in order to get a better sense of flavors.

Instead, we noticed things like mouthfeel, where the cider felt dry on the tongue, if there were sweet or tart notes and where they rested in the mouth; all in all, the more physical characteristics we could accumulate, the more interesting the cider was. For a neophyte I feel like I found something to start with on these ciders and the next time I come back, I’ll have more context to judge them by.

As an added bonus, before we left we were able to strike up a conversation with the owner, who told us of some of his hopes for future cider batches and gave us a taste of a smokey cider that he said wasn’t quite ready for prime time yet, but would be in a few weeks.

It was smokey and a little sweet, cloudy and a bit mad sciencey looking. I do believe I’ll be returning soon to try the more mellow version.

Out and about

mokahSo I’m in a hazy space. Between projects, if you will. The next few weeks of posts will have, I hope, a slightly different flavor as I’m going to play a little fast and loose with my style and what I do. Partly to just relax a little, partly to reconnect to the brews that are being made by other people.

I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time talking about places (good, but better if you have someone to be with in a place, a way to anchor the place with an experience and most of our experiences are with people) and less about the beverages I’m having. So for just a little while, randomness and beer.

I was all set to go to the Beermongers tonight until I saw in my email a chance to hit the Southern Tier tasting. While I am on a budget, a chance to try more beers from ST cannot be resisted. Beermongers  I will hit later this week, if the Universe is kind.

So, a friend met me at the Belmont Station and we tried the samples. Then I sat down with a small glass of the Mokah (above) and we got to chat about books, movies, legalization of drugs, and…actually, I think that covers it. I purchased some of the ST summer ale which I’ll talk about later.

In the meantime, enjoy the next few weeks of loose posts and fast brews. Er…loose brews and fast posts?

Either way, there will be less talk about my beers and more talk, I hope, about my experience with the beers I drink. Or just random stuff. Don’t worry, we will resume normal broadcasts soon.

Three and I’m done

Went out last night with Jim to play some cards and have a few beers at my favorite place. It had been a little while so I was hopeful; a fresh slate of new beers to try raises the spirits.

But no. Jim got grumpalicious by the end of the evening and I’d had three brews that were…faulty.

Starting off with Uncommon’s Bacon Brown. There wasn’t any bacon flavor that I could notice, nor anything I’d associate with bacon-salty, smoky, maple, notes-any of those would be acceptable. Instead I had a meager brown ale that got less good as I drank it.

My next attempt was Goose Island’s Matilda, but the keg blew. So while I got to try a little bit, I can’t fairly judge it.

I went for the Bruery’s White Orchard. I have two issues here. First; it cost me $6 for a beer that is produced in the US and has, to my knowledge, no other special characteristics (high alcohol, spices brought in by sherpas fed on organic meat, pixie dust from London) and wasn’t a pint. For that price, I’m expecting a beer that’s a noticeable cut above average.  However, I don’t care how good it’s supposed to be, White Orchard had a pronounced mint flavor at the end. Mint. In a beer that is supposed to have orange and corrander qualities. Jim suggested that it was like drinking a beer after brushing your teeth and I’m inclined to agree.

Finally I had Salmon Creek’s double IPA. And if it had been a pale, I probably would’ve dug it but calling your beer a double IPA means that there are expectations to be met. Serious hop aroma. Biting bitterness at the end. Maybe, if you’re lucky, it’s balanced but double IPAs are your not-screwing-around hoppy beers.

It’s possible that after the previous brews my palate was shot and I just couldn’t connect with Salmon Creek’s beer. I don’t think it was a bad beer, it just didn’t live up to my expectations. Still, after that I was done for the evening; sometimes it’s wise to know when to call it quits.

Also: Brewpublic’s post on the current issue between OLCC rules and homebrewers. It’s a good one.

Boulder Dam Brewing Samplers

Sigh. There are some things that just can’t be helped, and I’m afraid the beers at Boulder Dam are among them.

I will admit, I don’t like Las Vegas that much-it strikes me as foolishly excessive, ugly, and lacking the element of fun that it so madly insists it is selling to people. I have family down there, though, so I go visit. Now fortunately for me, my Dad also likes good beer so he tries to keep his ears perked for any brewpubs. And since Boulder City is only about 20 minutes outside of Vegas, it was easy enough for him to hear of this brewpub–and so it was on my visit last weekend, we took off for the wares of the Boulder Dam Brewpub.

It’s in the 80’s at least, so it’s the perfect time of day for a beer. Dad and I stroll in to have sampler trays of 6 Boulder Dam beers. The first thing that struck me was this; every single beer was disturbingly cloudy. Even the stout when I held it up to the light, seemed to have a haze to it that didn’t belong. I am not sure if it’s the water in that area causing this haze, or some kind of defect to the brewing system itself, but all the beers had this quality. So just as the tray is being set down in front of me, I’m troubled.

I suppose that the two caveats to this post then should be first: all the beers had a haze to them that in some cases (pils, red, stout) definitely shouldn’t be there, but since the haze was present throughout, I won’t mention it in my descriptions. I’m not sure how water in Nevada might impact the clarity of the beers, but it’s the kind of thing that a brewpub certainly needs to know and compensate for. Second: I only had samples of each beer. There are some beers that just need a pint to get a feel for, and so a touch of salt should probably be taken with these descriptions.

Powder Monkey Pilsner; this had a slightly lemony aftertaste, and like most pilsners, no real nose on it. It also had a mouth feel that was just way too dense for what anyone should expect from a pilsner. Finally there was a bitterness-a kind of dirty aftertaste as well that just didn’t sit well with me.

Hell’s Hole Hefe; this was served with a huge slice of orange, and when brewers’ use fruit to overcome the sourness of their beer, I think something is seriously wrong. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if the yeast strain they used in the Pilsner is the same as the one here; there’s a similar mouthfeel, but none of the more belgian elements (clove, banana) that you’d expect from a belgain beer. There were citrus notes through the entire beer, though, as a positive. From the hops or the orange slice though, I couldn’t tell you.

Raspberry Vice; this had a nice raspberry nose, but that’s where it ended. This fell into the pit of many fruit beers; the fruit is not actually complimenting the beer, it’s either overwhelming or barely present at all. This weiss beer ended up tasting like sickly raspberry candy instead, and both my Dad and I were especially critical of it.

Hop Crisis; This felt a bit more like a traditional IPA instead of the super-hoppy ones made in the Pacific NW. It had an effervescence that cut through the bitterness and had a slightly malty finish, but again there was a dirty aftertaste on this beer that I couldn’t get past.

Ragtown Red; this was the first beer that actually tasted interesting. Because they used black malts the beer had a darker, shade to it, almost a ‘core’ of darkness, surrounded by a lighter dirty golden fluid. This malt gave the beer a chocolate, malty chewiness that I found interesting, and I would’ve liked to have drank more of this beer to get a better feel for it. There was a hint of clove in the nose, and this was the first indication I had that a different yeast strain may have been used in this beer versus the others.

Black Canyon Stout; this felt more like a porter in the mouth, but the line between porters and stouts have been blurry for awhile. The roasted malt flavors hung out in my mouth, but they weren’t unpleasantly sweet, so I wasn’t unhappy about that.

Of the beers I had, I’d try the Ragtown to get a better handle on it, and recommend the Black Canyon…but with serious reservations. My Dad liked the Stout and the Pilsner, but after that had reservations or flat out disliked the rest of the beers.