Tag Archives: common ale

Common Ales: Goose Island IPA

Goose Island is always the subject of a lot of discussion amongst the craft beer people, in part because they were one of, if not the first, craft brewery that ABInBev bought. Perhaps they were just the highest profile brewery at the time-I don’t recall. While the pro side of this arrangement (we can drink Goose Island beer in Portland, they can produce more styles) and the con side (eventually, the macro-brew mentality will catch up and the beer will suffer)  of the argument can go on forever, the proof is in the pudding. So to speak.

So let’s try their IPA.

25806551393_3aa5bd1b7a_cThe hops smell stale, old oranges coming up. The finish keeps with the start, a flavor like wet paper coming to round it all up. It’s practically vegetal, like celery.

I hate celery.

Note, this beer is in a can: It should last for quite some time, nearly impervious to  light and air. That leaves heat and age as the likely culprits.

Because while I think Goose Island is a brewery that people should have conversations about, re: their ownership by ABInBev, and especially what that means for the quality of their product in the future, it’s difficult to have that conversation when I’m reviewing a beer that is so clearly off.

The notation on the bottom of the can lists 12/15. Four months in the can shouldn’t have that much of an impact, should it? According to my brief research on the internet: no. Four to six months, assuming you’ve kept a can of beer under proper conditions.

Which leaves some other weak link in the distribution chain. And that sucks, because I dropped $9.50 for 4 cans of beer that doesn’t taste very good and it likely doesn’t taste very good because didn’t do their job. But you know who I’m holding accountable for that? Goose Island, because they have all the support of the biggest brewery in the world now. There is no reason why their product should reach shelves in poor condition or stay on them after their date.

Common Ales: Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

24932946922_7b5307e95e_kI just went for this one, because if there’s a beer I can consistently find from Ninkasi, it’s the Total Domination. If I’m wrong, Ninkasi, let me know! It’s not as though I won’t buy more beer.

The nose is definitely pushing the pine/marijuana funk. There is a middle to this beer comprised of toasty but not sweet flavors, however they has zero chance to stand up to the bitterness on the finish.

Because wow, that bitterness swings through your mouth like a juggernaut. Just blows everything else out. On the one hand, I have to say that the beer lives up to its name. On the other hand, the intensity of this bitterness makes the beer difficult to recommend. It’s not easy to pair with most food but I can see it clearing out buffalo wings pretty well.

I suppose if there’s a complaint to be directed here, it’s that the beer isn’t very complex. That could also a strength, though. This is a pretty straightforward IPA and either you’re going to be down for what it’s offering or you are not.

Personally, I can get down with this beer. If you’re buying it for me, I’m good with that. But if I’m buying something for you? I might just check to see if that’s what you’re into.

Common Ales: Elysian Immortal IPA

I decided to try a new thing: use Twitter to ask breweries what their best selling beer was. I’ve been using contact forms on websites and not getting much reply-some, certainly, and I’m grateful for that response. But more often than not I was talking to the void. So I figure, what’s more immediate than pinging someone’s Twitter account, right?

My first conversation went…a little weird. While I appreciate that brewers are proud of their work but c’mon. Just give24942445245_66a6e9952a_k me a straight answer. Still, though it took me four stores to find it, the Immortal IPA was purchased!

The nose is nice-ish. Little lemony and a little funky, like rind. The front side of the beer is a touch sweet, also in a citrusy way. There’s little malt sweetness and I can’t say it’s strong as the bitterness that the hops steps up very quickly. It hits the top of my mouth, mostly and that’s a little strange. Eventually I feel the bitterness in my cheeks but what’s interesting so far is that it isn’t accompanied by a dryness, like I’d get with white wine or some really bitter IPAs.

I’m about halfway through the beer when I notice that it’s got a sweet note that sneaks up in between the bitterness, just before I finish my sip. That helps keep things in check somehow.

And yet, there’s something I can’t put my finger on. A little bit vegetal flavoring is lingering at the end. The beer is nearly done and it doesn’t seem to be quite as good as when I started. It’s not bad but it’s not tempting me to have another. I can’t quite recommend this.

Common Ales: Alaskan Amber

I didn’t even have to ask Alaksan brewing what their best selling ale was: they tell me on their web site that the Amber ale is their flagship. Problem solved! Plus, I even get to save some money for once, because the Amber is available in a handy 22oz bottle instead of having to buy a six pack.

But buying a six pack wouldn’t be so bad.

Caramel in the nose! That’s pretty exciting because it’s not hoppy. That this kind of variety exists at a grocery store is kind of remarkable.

The caramel flavor is right there in the middle too; a roasty caramel flavor, sweet but not cloy.

The finish is very bright; the bubbles are adept at sweeping nearly everything away. Nearly. After it’s all done, I’m noticing a biscuit flavor, just a little bit. The label says it’s an alt style and when I look at the style guidelines, it’s suggested that there should be an assertive hop bitterness but I’m not getting that at all.

I’m not complaining by any means. This beer probably a “take” on the style and what the brewers at Alaskan did to this beer I can’t say. But it retains it’s crisp finish (with biscuit) all the way to the end of the glass and I really see this beer as a great staple to the pub. There’s enough going on that I can drink it by itself but also nothing wrong with pairing this up with some nachos.

Mmmm….nachos.

Common Ales: Full Sail Amber

Nobody at Full Sail got back to me about their best selling ale so it was a dealer’s choice moment. While there may be better known styles, (read: IPAs all day every day) I am a little tired of those styles. Time to have an amber instead!

It’s a malty ale, nose with a bit of a note like a lager, in a way. Almost funky but not exactly, is the best I can do here. The beer itself has a solid malt flavor but it isn’t too thick by any means. So what we have is a drinkable beer that feels like something that I would have with pub grub. I mean this in the best way: it’s got an exceptionally clean finish that should be able to take on any kind of salty, spicy, greasy munchies of your favorite spot.

Which means that this should be easy to find at any pub and worth a pint to wash down your burger.

Ambers can be  tricky to recommend, because they don’t have the same kind of flavor profile or visual familiarity as many other styles. Even so, I think this is a pretty good beer and a nice example of the style. It’s a good pairing for food and it’s a worthy beer that, again, I think should be a great ‘gateway’ ale.

Common Ales: Ft George Vortex

‘There’s just so much stuff, I never have any idea what to take’, my Dad said as we browsed for beer. To which I replied, ‘That’s why I’m doing the reviews!’ so let’s get back to it, starting with Ft George’s Vortex IPA.

Nose smells like pot. The hop additions skew heavy towards that dankness and pine but after so many grapefruit IPAs I have to say that it’s a relief to experience some variety.

There’s a solid malt quality  before the bitterness of the finish but somewhere in between I’m getting…watermelon? Yep. There’s a quality there that I associate with watermelon, a watery vegetal bitterness I’m not that fond of. It seems to give way to a more grainy flavor as I get further into the glass. That is a good thing for certain but it makes me a little wary of my own senses. I’ve slowed down my sips of this beer to try and get a better grip on it.

Restarting with a new beer, the watermelon influence isn’t notable. Was I mistaken or has the cold temp of the new beer blunted the flavor? I don’t seem to get the watermelon in this glass but in the end I have to approach with caution.

Common Ales: Sam Adams Lager

Lagers are always challenging to evaluate, especially since I have not spent a lot of time drinking them. The Pacific Northwest has IPAs, man.

That said; it’s not terribly difficult to say whether or not I like this beer: I do. While it has the nose of your standard lager (which I’ve always found to be a pleasing kind of funky sour), there’s just enough body in there to leave some caramel tastes on my tongue. Secondary sniffs provide more malt and there’s definitely a bready aftertaste on this beer, which finishes pretty cleanly otherwise.

In other words, this is one of those great “gateway” beers. Something that someone who has been drinking one brand of American lager all his or her life might try and discover that ‘hey, I like this’ and perhaps branch into other flavors of beer. Or maybe they’ll just appreciate that there’s no perfect beer, only perfect beers.

At the same time, this beer is totally drinkable from the perspective of someone like me, who has been wading through many, many flavors of beer for over fifteen years. It’s light enough to stay drinkable and dense enough to have some flavor to it. In other words, it’s a pretty good beer.

The Local: Matchbox Lounge

matchbox lounge“For meetings that are not entirely business, but not exactly personal either, the best places are litle pubs, with five or six tables at most.” -Anton Gorodetsky, Twilight Watch by Sergi Lukyanenko.

I’m all scattershot now.

Usually I arc out a narrative as I walk to the bar. In this case, it was going to be something about how the Whiskey Soda lounge wasn’t for me but when I left I walked by the Matchbox and thought; I didn’t know that was a pub! So here I am.

On my way here though, about 42nd and something, just after walking under the monkey arm tree, I heard a jingling, a kind of limp beat. Looking for the source I saw a fuzzy kitty, brown-gray with a black collar, limping between two houses. It’s silver and red tags clanging together as it gimped to what I hope was a safe location, left forepaw held up and dangling in the way that animals have when they’ve hurt a limb, it caused me to stop.

Owch. You need help there?

The cat stopped and looked at me. None of your nonsense human; I’m on my way home.

I certainly hope so.

Though I began walking on and heard the jingle of movement I still worried. The cat has a home, fortunately.

Now instead of a narrative I have jumbles of thoughts, like a Boggle board; scents of pine, lemongrass, and smoke, girls playing on their front porch, a strange starburst shaped thing with blue and purple colors on another, and look, there’s a Cube.

Who the fuck thought that Cube was a good name for a car? Brought to you by the people who named ‘orange’.

The Matchbox treats. The bartender has an Isis shirt on and we talk about the upcoming Melvins/Isis split and tour. All of fifteen seconds and the Lounge has won me over because there’s a heavy metal bartender. The art on the wall ranges from multimedia to sparse, local artists with their wares on display, a solid wal-o-hol and a nice jukebox selection; some music expected, some not. Plus, I can see from there Johnny Cash is there and liking Johnny Cash is pretty much quintessentially American. Not everybody is going to get Metallica or Crooked Fingers; everybody gets The Man in Black.

I got a Daily Bread common ale. I keep trying common ales in part because it was an extinct style-or nearly extinct-and I like the idea that what is lost can be revived. It’s the Roman Catholic in me; I have a thing for redemption, even if it’s beer. Actually, beer makes more sense than anything else.

However, the style just never quite works for me. A little thin in front like sweet air, a bit too bitter at the end, slightly dry finish in this case. I probably would’ve been better off with an IPA but I cannot resist the glory of new things. I think I’d rather have a proper mild ale than a common but oh well. What’s done is done.

The bartender removes a bottle of Johnny Walker red to light a candle behind it. I like that there are hidden candles. I don’t know how the drinks are here but I think this might make a good alternate for the Victory lounge on nights when that place is crowded.

I hope that cat made it home. It bothers me that I had to let it go. I am not a cat person but I dislike seeing someone limp.