Before The Closing Of The Year

As the year of the improbable comes to a tumultuous close, I thought it best to remain with my tried and true and new, revisiting beers I first sampled  in the last century, along with some exciting new offerings.
First there is my beloved Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout946998l-jpgA Russian Imperial Style Stout, I first encountered in a case of Meet The Brooklyn Family which was a case sampler consisting of a six pack each of East India Pale Ale, Brown Ale, pre-prohibition Lager, and of course BCS. Which was a remarkable occurrence at the time, since it was purchased in Kentucky since the draconian alcohol laws in Ohio made it verbotten to obtain beer that was over 6% at that time.
To be honest, tasting Black Chocolate Stout for the first time was a complete revelation. I had sampled Irish stouts, and milk stout, but this was a royal stout on an entire new playing field. The amount of material required to produce this beer is a testament to a brew of uncompromising character. So it was with great pleasure to see this legendary recipe available in a six pack (four bottle is simply not enough). For those who have never tasted this, be prepared to experience a beer whose origins date back to England in the 19th century.  A stout that was exported to Czarist Russia. To put it precisely, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a truly great beer, a recipe still relevant in 2016 and beyond.

Another old friend found its way to my door, via Boonville, California. and the solar powered Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Winter Solstice37830l-jpgA wonderful ale I first encountered in the last decade of the 20th century. Always seeking information I actually made a long distance telephone call to ABVC and talked to a brewer to make sure the beer was wassail, which of course it was and is. What is remarkable about the flavor profile of this ale, I could identify this delicious offering in a blind taste test. The same could be said of their unique Summer Solstice, a rare summer wassail.

Although I have complained about hop obsessed creations, my bias did not prevent me from sampling New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPAnew-belgium-voodoo-ranger-imperial-ipa

A dark golden pour with a dense head of white foam, with a strong botanical nose. Not boozy exactly, more like botanically boozy, which anyone who has explored American IPA has experienced . But this Voodoo Ranger is surprisingly complex. There are plenty of citrus notes, along with what could possibly be described as a honeydew melon sherbet like quality. A 9% ale without any alcohol burn. This is very interesting sipping.

Samuel Adams Hopscapehopscapeis the result of all the interest in west coast hops in the last few years. This is a hop showcase wheat ale that is a delicious pleasure to drink. Drinking this, I am reminded what a wonderful world this actually is.

That Time Of Year Again

Where to begin? In 2016, what can accurately be described as the year of the improbable the festive celebration of Holiday beer continues unabated. The tried and true, along with the new, provides a tasting experience of unprecedented variety. As my beloved late father might say: there was never a better time.
For the new, I would first like to thank the excellent beer writer Peter Rowe of The San Diego Union Tribune, who sent me his impressions of a beer I have been seeking for the last two years, and that is Xocoveza from Stone Brewing stone-2016-xocoveza-12-ounce-bottleAn incredible leap of faith take on a Mexican inspired, winter spiced mocha stout. It is a One-of-a-kind recipe, with its own very special idea of what a smooth finish should be to a chile infused ale. With an enormous body, this stout’s complexity somehow manages  to be very soothing at the same time. Delicious all the way through to a malty rich, dark dry finish.

This year, Anchor’s “Our Special Ale” is the 42 edition, which is my 25th year of sampling this Granddad of American Holiday wassail merry-xmas tradition. This year’s version is also the strongest at 6.5% abv. The spruce-like elements long associated with this malt forward recipe give the palate an orange dark chocolate note. An outstanding un-compromised recipe where the word craft actually has meaning, reminding me why I started exploring the world of beer in the first place.

Something I have grown to love is the annual return of Shiner Holiday Cheercheer_6pk_background__largeSpoetzl Brewery’s unique take on a dunkleweizen that employs peaches and pecans. A lovely off center take on holiday festivities. I was somewhat shocked the first time I tasted this, but in subsequent years, it has become an unmistakable, tried and true friend.

Dogfish Head’s Pennsylvania Tuxedodogfish-head-pennsylvania-tuxedo-bottleDemonstrates that experimentation with spruce tips can produce a pale ale that hides its 8.5% strength with a tangy, citrus like palate that finishes wonderfully dry. Outstanding.

New graphics adorn the venerable Samuel Adams Winter Lagersam-adams-winter-lager

Alway delicious here in a city where it is brewed. The hipper-than-thou crowd might disparage this brew, but do not believe it. This has been a quality beer for a very long time. As TV’s Maury would say: “Unitl next time America!”
With best holiday regards,
The Beer Doctor

Mister Fauxpo’s Early Christmas

I only have to blame myself for what happened. I had seen this before. Mr. Fauxpo had always been and would forever be the very definition of a bounder. Not good for anything accept getting loaded, he was the first at the party and the last to leave. Unfortunately for him and the people he has befriended, he often is without any personal monitor for tracking his wretched excesses. He has never understood that beer, with all its culinary connections to civilization,  is not just an alcohol delivery system. For a man of advanced age, this is downright pathetic. He often is totally oblivious to the detrimental effects he has on others.

So when he settled in for the holiday beer tasting, the only detail he was interested in was how strong each beer was. Mr. Fauxpo pretended that he was interested in the flavors of beer, like artisan brewing enthusiasts, but the reality was that this was a complete lie. Mr. Fauxpo was an any kind of beer guzzler, who also has an obsession with smoking marijuana. Not the cannabis cultivation found in those states where it is legal. No. Obtaining marijuana for Mr. Fauxpo involved travel to dangerous neighborhoods where an ugly mix of police-racial paranoia permeated the air. All of this in order to score some mediocre weed. Not that this actually mattered to Mr. Fauxpo. It was the idea of having a beer and a joint on hand at all times that provided the little comfort he had in life. Never mind that the herb he purchased was so dry, he coughed furiously with each inhalation.

So the football game was on free TV and our local team, remarkably, was actually winning. Mr. Fauxpo treated the holiday beers like they were his personal spigot: Hibernation Ale, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Anchor Our Special Ale, Madtree Thundersnow, Emergency Malt Kit, Great Lakes Christmas Ale, Bell’s Christmas Ale, and Rhinegeist Dad were all guzzled in a quiet fury that was only revealed when Mr. Fauxpo stumbled his way over to the bathroom.
Since I do not permit smoking in my house of any kind, Mr. Fauxpo would go out to the backyard porch, where he would proceed with his fixins ritual of chopping up the dry withered buds to roll into a reefer. This process took often a half hour to perform.

The question will inevitably be asked: so why do you put up with the bastard? Well I have always had a soft spot (in my head?) for people who do not fit too well in the established world. These are dysfunctional folks whose behavioral foundations were set long ago in analog times, who now find themselves living in a bewildering digital age. Mr. Fauxpo could serve as a classic example. He depends upon his cellphone for contact with the outside world, yet is too proud or too lazy, or both, to admit he needs corrective lenses to see the data on his smart phone screen.

This quickly became an ale and safety issue. As someone who does not own a car, nor a license to drive one, the thought of this out-of-control, beer and pothead getting behind the wheel of an auto, is a distinct nightmare to say the least. What was I to do? What was suppose to be a festive season celebration became something rather ugly when Mr. Fauxpo decided, for whatever reason , to display in full, his obnoxious drunken persona. I thought: perhaps if I give him some food, like a large slice of pizza, maybe the cheese will absorb some of the alcohol.
Well he seemed somewhat reasonable when he quietly informed me he would be leaving, by way of the backyard door. I said goodbye and returned to my working area to take care of some chores.

It wan hour or so later when I went out to recycle the cans and bottles, only to find Mr. Fauxpo lying at the bottom of the three step porch, unconscious, with a bloody gash upon his head. I tried to revive him but to no avail. All I knew about his condition was he was still breathing. So then I called 911.

The Firefighter EMT and Police arrived shortly thereafter. The cops wanted to know if there had been a fight. I told them no, he had just consumed too much strong beer, fell off the back porch, unknown to me until I found him later. Looking at how busted up Mr. Fauxpo was, some of the cops suggested he might be on other drugs. So then they scanned the dark area where he fell, using their Mag flashlights. The tiny remaining crumbs of bud found  in his fixins tray were scattered to the winds, right before the constabulary arrived.

All this happened two days before Saint Nicholas Feast day. Since then I have wondered if Mr. Fauxpo’s extreme behavior was a physical manifestation of Krampus. Some gnarly holiday demon seeking to banish the idea of in cervesio felicitas.