The Burrito Tribune

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randomness, truth, and burritos

Craft Beer: Boulevard Brewing Co. Single-Wide IPA

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You know, i normally give IPAs a lot of grief.  Not because its a bad beer, I have found some real winners in the IPA scene.  I have more issues with IPA being a trendy beer.  It seems like the beer novice brewers can cover up their mistakes with by adding god-awful amounts of hops to the batch.  I still stand by the fact that there is something wrong with the craft beer selection when over half of my reviews end up being IPAs because it makes up nearly fifty percent of the craft beer market.  There is such variety in craft beers, its disappointing that the majority of the beers are just overdosed with hops and labeled an IPA.

Now, with all that being said, I have been rather excited to try this IPA from Boulevard Brewing Co.  It is brewed in Kansas City, MO, and surprisingly, it is fermented a second time in the bottle, adding a bit more carbonation and head to the mix.  I am actually quite surprised they do this, as a bottle fermentation can be a bit unstable and cause the bottles to explode if exposed to extreme temperatures (re-starting fermentation and adding increased pressure to the bottle).  Perhaps Boulevard Brewing has a way to avoid this, as a novice brewer I can’t say that it’s not possible.

Pouring the glass was an exciting experience. The head remained thick and frothy through the entire poor.  I practically got impatient as it took forever to settle enough for me to empty out the rest of the bottle. The hops smell amazing.  The smell, while definitely hops, does not have the tart astringency that I’m used to finding in an IPA.  It’s almost sweet in its scent, reminding me of caramel and granny smith apples.  There is a citrus presence in the background as well that keeps the smell fresh and lively.

First tastes are equally surprising.  The flavor is also substantially milder than your typical IPA.  The presence of hops won’t let you forget this is an IPA, but it’s like a seasoning that compliments all the base flavors of the beer, as opposed to being the primary flavor itself.  The intensity of the flavoring is moderate at best, but the complexity keeps me interested.  The first flavors are crisp and cool, reminding me of watermelon rind.  As I continue to drink a body of sweetness rises up to contrast the tartness of the hops.  It makes me think of sweet grapefruit juice, or unsweetened raspberries.  The finish washes back in with a more savory flavor, making me think of italian seasonings and just a hint of lemon bite.

I think it’s a testament to the quality of this beer that I nearly finished it in the first ten minutes of writing this post.  It’s an excellent mix of flavors without being too overpowering.  I would almost consider it an all-weather beer, with perhaps the exception of the coldest months of winter.  It is one of my favorite IPAs to date, though the true disappointment comes in that it’s almost impossible to find in this area outside of my specialty beer store.  ah well.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , ,

Craft Beer: Big Boss Brewing Blanco Diablo Ale

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With the High Roller IPA being one of the better beers I have had, I was especially delighted to see another offering from Big Boss Brewing the last time I went to the store.  I picked up a bottle of “Blanco Diablo” an ale that is “brewed with spices”.  At 4.3% ABV, I am not expecting it to knock me on my butt, but it should still have a healthy strength over most mass produced beers.

First impressions are different than most beers.  Even by ale standards, Blanco Diablo is very pale.  It leaves a nice head on the glass as it pours, but it settles quickly and does not leave much residue on the glass.  The smell is also very subtle, I practically had to dip my nose into the beer to get a hint of anything. The best guess I can lay down on what this beer smells like is cucumber.  That’s it, I don’t have anything else to share on just the smell.

I’m not entirely sure I can say something better regarding the flavor of the beer.  My first impression is that it is extremely light flavored.  I am having difficulty placing what the flavor of the beer is beyond it being somewhat beery in essence with a watered-down tart finish.  It honestly reminds me of a craft beer company trying to make some weird hybrid between watered down orange juice and a blonde ale.  This seems to be a beer designed to make the drinkers of bland mass-produced beer comfortable in the craft beer environment.  If you wandered into Big Boss brewing and asked for a <famous mass-produced pilsner>, I feel like this is the beer that the bartender would talk you towards.

Maybe there is a place for this type of beer in the craft beer market, but I don’t really understand it myself.  Craft beer has a great identity for its strong flavors and being unique.  Wanting to design an extremely light flavored beer that emulates the mass-market stuff seems like it does craft beer an injustice.  Maybe it works when the group of friends get together to hit a microbrewery and there’s the one friend who only drinks <insert mass-produced beer royalty here>.  I guess it’s fair to cater to him, you can’t leave him sitting there with an empty glass (or no glass for that matter).  Still, I have trouble picturing your typical craft beer aficionado seeking out this beer on purpose.

Filed under: Ale, , , , ,

Craft Beer: New Belgium Brewery: 1554 Black Lager

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This is the last New Belgium beer that I have on hand for review at the moment.  So far, I have been rather impressed with their work.  I know that they have a number of other beers on hand to try, but until I can make another beer run I will have to wait on the rest of their line-up.  I’d also like to start getting back to a more diverse sampling for a little bit.

1554 is a bit of a curiousity to me as I pour it.  It is a 5.6% ABV Black Lager brewed by New Belgium in Fort Collins, CO.  The bottle claims it is inspired by a Belgian book from 1554.  Need to be honest, I’m not exactly sure how to take that.  It sounds like a marketing ploy to me, but their beers have been good enough so far to let this slide.

Pouring the beer produced a healthy, if somewhat muted head compared to the last two New Belgium brews I have sampled.  It still coated the glass well, but the head did sink faster than the others.  The beer does not give off a very strong aroma.  I had to struggle to even get anything off of the glass.  What I did notice was a blend of brown sugar and rich chocolate, almost like the smell of a great hot chocolate, but a bit more muted than you would expect.

Ok, this journey is going to be an interesting one.  The subtle aromas from pouring had me expecting something lighter and very subtle.  I was surprised to find out that this is not the case.  The first taste of this beer is incredibly intense.  It sounds like a weird mix, but it works for this beer, the first taste reminds me of a blend of celery and subdued chocolate.  The carbonation adds to this and makes for a rich flavored beer that is still very refreshing.  It took me a little bit of restraint to not just gulp it down in a “I’m parched and this is delicious!” kind of way.  The finish is definitely more on the chocolate end, with a slightly sweet and rich body.

The last two new Belgium beers seemed to be calibrated for warmer weather.  While this doesn’t have the “stick to your ribs” quality of a winter beer, I would definitely put this more in a Fall or Spring category.  While not too filling, this beer feels like it could stand up to a little chill in the air.  I also get this vision in my mind of enjoying this with a huge porterhouse steak dinner with green beans, potatoes, and all the other good stuff.

I have liked all of the New Belgium beers I have tasted so far.  While I know there will be more, this has been my favorite one to date.  Maybe it’s the season, ask me about the IPA Ranger when the middle of July hits next year.  Until then, if you can find this in your area, I highly recommend you give it a try.

Filed under: Lager, , , , ,

Craft Beer: New Belgium Ranger IPA

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Despite being a bit overdosed on IPAs with this blog, I have been very eager to try this New Belgium Ranger IPA.  New Belgium is a brewery that has produced some good beers that I can always turn to when I am out with my friends.  They’re big enough to be found in most bars that cater to craft beer, yet still independent enough to be fun to look for when you’re out.

The Ranger IPA is made in Fort Collins, CO and is 6.7% ABV.  This is a bit higher than normal, but I would not worry about it catching me off guard while drinking out with the guys.

Like the Fat Tire, when pouring this beer I noticed that it produces a very strong prominent head (see the picture, I got impatient waiting for it to settle).  It also does a very good job of coating the glass as it comes down.  The carbonation does a great job of giving loft to the aromatics of the hops and malt with this beer.  It smells absolutely delicious, with strong hints of sweet orange.  It makes me think of biting into an orange that’s been floating in fruit punch all day.

When Ranger first hit my tongue, I was shocked at the sweetness that comes from it.  It is not a standard feature in the many IPAs that are on the market today.  For the briefest of instants, it gives you this sweet kick, like the icing on an orange cinnamon roll, before the hops roll in and remind you it’s a full-strength IPA.  The kick of the hops is a unique contrast to the sweetness and on some level reminds me of sweet/tart theater candy (take your pick of which).  It’s a contrast that adds great complexity to the beer and keeps it a refreshing option in an industry practically overrun with IPAs.

The flavors feel like they zig-zag back and forth before finally finishing on a sweet note.  The final sweetness is another welcome change from  your typical IPA and keeps me quickly coming back for another sip.

As far as IPAs go (and this blog shows I’ve been sampling my fair share)  this is one of my favorite to date.  I would generally keep my IPAs for warmer weather, this one is especially great because the flavor isn’t too astringent and unlikely to leave you feeling parched because of its strength.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , ,

Craft Beer: New Belgium Fat Tire

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I should come clean and say that even though I decided to review this beer, this is by far not the first time I have had this amber ale. It has often been a favorite of mine during happy hour or when I am out on the town with my friends. I cannot say it is my all-time favorite beer, but it is a very reliable beer that you can easily find on draft in my area. It is a beer that I can drink several of through the night and not easily tire of the flavor.
Fat Tire is brewed by New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins Colorado. It is 5.2% ABV, a pretty standard strength for a craft beer. It also tends to be a standard craft beer on draft here in Charlotte, NC.
Pouring the drink looks quite impressive. It produces a substantial head, and it actually took a good bit of time for the head to settle so I could finish pouring the bottle. It clung to the glass nicely, while the beer itself is a very nice dark amber color, almost brown.
The beer has the smell of a fresh cut apple or pear. It’s cooling, but more mellow than crisp. Even the scent has a sweetness to it that is very pleasant. The first taste has a noticeable presence of hops, but it isn’t the kick in the teeth that most IPAs and pale ales have. It is extremely smooth and pleasing, yet not strongly flavored. The presence of an apple flavor or tart melon is still apparent. It makes the beer very light in body but quite refreshing. The beer finishes with a subtle sweetness that reminds me of fresh berries.
This beer is reasonably priced at $5 for a pint at my local pub. Its light body and fruity essence make it a great hot weather beer, though for a true beer snob who loves his porters and stouts, it might be a little lacking in complexity.

Filed under: Amber, , , , ,

Craft Beer: Cigar City Brewing Co., Maduro Brown

On a recent trip to Florida I was able to pick up an excellent Brown ale local to the Tampa Bay area.  Their Maduro Brown (named after the fermented darker color cigar) has quickly become one of my favorite darker beers to drink on a hot August evening.

Freshly Poured Maduro Brown and standard can

Freshly Poured Maduro Brown and standard can

This beer is a dark black/brown with a tall frothy brown head that projects the sweetness of the beer.  at 5.5% ABV it comes in right at nominal for craft beer strength.  The six-pack I procured was canned instead of bottled, but don’t let this disuade you.  The beer’s flavor is not affected in any way I have been able to tell from the canning vs bottling process.  I would certainly advise you to not drink this beer straight from the can.  Doing so would waste a good portion of the aromatic qualities of the beer because they would be trapped in the can.  Lastly, if this beer is in your area, it is moderately priced.  You should be able to find it at your local bar for ~$5 per pint.  I purchased my 6-pack for $9.99 in the Tampa area.

Now as to the beer itself.  It comes out of the can as an extremely dark brown, almost closer to a stout than a brown ale.  The dark head on the glass suggests a strong thick flavor and may worry some drinkers that it will be too potent for their palate.  Do not despair in thinking that this is a beer you are going to have to chew before you swallow.  Let us all remember that a Florida beer that was too thick and heavy could not survive in a state that routinely hits 97 degrees at 2am in the morning.

The scent of the beer is sweet and strong.  it reminds me of flavors like caramel or dark chocolate.  Behind all of those primary scents is a hint of roasting coffee beans, or pralined almonds.  Behind this though is a bright coolness that betrays the otherwise thick dark looking beer.

The first sip of this beer is surprisingly refreshing.  For a brown ale, the beer has a very welcome light sweet finish that makes a great contrast to the Florida heat where this beer is brewed.  It also suits the deep southern heat of my current town quite well.  The first sensation of this beer is the tingle of the carbonation that creates a citrus tingle across the tongue, and the dark sweet malt of a potent brown ale.  Despite this, Maduro Brown isn’t heavy and slides down more akin to a pilsner or pale ale fit for a steamy summer day.  The finish is sweet and bright, reminding me of something akin to a root beer float with a hint of chocolate.  This may be too sweet for some craft beer aficionados, but it is a welcome change of pace for local beer advocate.

If you are in a region that has access to Cigar City brews, I would highly recommend you try this beer.  it is an great beer in its own right, and an excellent choice for a beer drinker who enjoys lighter beers but is ready for a step up to the bolder dark-beer leagues.  I would recommend it for hot weather or at the end of a long exhausting day.  To pair with food, i would go with your standard bar-food of burgers, chicken tenders, or Carolina BBQ.

Filed under: Brown, , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Avery Brewing, Ellie’s Brown Ale

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I have to say I picked this brown ale for two main reasons.  One is that I had a family dog named Ellie (as in Ellie Mae from the Beverley Hill Billies, she was…sassy), and I love the chutzpah of Avery Brewing Co. advertising this as “lab tested” (see picture of can above).  I figured this beer was deserving of a little attention.

This is a pretty standard strength (5.5% ABV) brown ale brewed by Avery Brewing in Boulder, CO.  It’s named after their chocolate lab and brewed with fresh Rocky Mountain spring water.

Pouring the beer put a decent head on the glass.  It was a bit smaller than I would have expected from such a dark rich smelling beer, but it lingered for a good while after pouring.  The beer has a sweet scent, so sweet I’d go ahead and push past the molasses comparison and say it smells more like brown sugar.  The smell has a peppery-ness to it that wakes up the nose a little.  The smell also has a sour wetness to it that reminds me of cooked grape leaves or spinach.

The first taste of this beer is actually quite mellow.  This surprised me considering how dark it is.  The first taste is so mellow I almost qualified it as lacking.  That’s “almost”  until the follow-through hit me, and wow what a follow-through.  It is still not by any means a heavy beer, but it has a semi-sweet chocolaty-ness that really sets it off as a great brown ale.  As the beer hits you as you swallow you’re engulfed in the essence of malted barley and some very mild hops.  As the aftertaste rolls in you get the strong hints of molasses and high quality dark chocolate.

This beer is a very high quality drink, but as I work through it it seems to continue to be perplexing to my pallet.  It tastes like it should be a heavier beer, but it isn’t.  If it wasn’t for the chocolatey finish I’d rate it more as refreshing, but I can’t say I’d want to drink this on a hot summer day.  Maybe this would better be drank right now, at the very beginning of fall, where it isn’t too hot for a richer beer, but not so cold that you want a thick porter or stout.  I guess it fits that this beer comes from mountain-country.  I think you get more of that weather up there.

People who are looking for that overwhelmingly thick malty brown ale might be a little disappointed, but this a great brew unto itself.  It would also be an excellent beer to introduce some novice craft beer drinkers into darker beers without knocking their socks off.

Filed under: Brown, , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Westbrook Brewing, White Thai

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Unfortunately for some personal reasons I had to take a small break from trying new craft beers.  I had a head cold for a few days, and the medicine I took made everything taste/smell metallic.  I figured that would not be advantageous to providing quality taste-tests.  It finally wore off and I’m glad to be back to sampling another interesting beer I’ve found here in the Carolinas.

I’ve never heard of this brand or type of beer before.  It’s a “White Thai” beer from Westbrook brewing company in Mt. Pleasant, SC.  It boasts flavors inspired by Southeast Asian cuisine.  I’ve never thought of pairing beer with Asian flavorings before, so I’m excited to see what this is like.  For strength it comes in at a standard craft beer 5% ABV, and the brewers suggest drinking it at 45-50F in a tulip or wine glass.  Honestly, I wish I would read this stuff before I go and pour the glass for my picture, but whatever.

Pouring the beer gave me a big frothy head that lingered for a bit and has a good cling to the glass so far.  As the head fizzes away, the scent is truly enticing.  It’s slightly sweet and spicy.  It reminds me of some sort of sweet between a sugar cookie and  a ginger snap.  Behind that there is a cool refreshing scent like lemon zest.

The flavoring of this beer is very cool and mellow.  It doesn’t start off very strong, and almost doesn’t remind me of beer.  It has a light flavor that reminds me of flowers and iced tea.  It seems like it would be very refreshing on a hot day where I’ve already broken a sweat.  However sitting here at home in the comfort of air conditioning it feels like it could carry a little more body.  It’s hard to describe what’s there for the majority of the drink because it just doesn’t feel like there is a lot of presence to talk about.  At the very very…VERY end  you can get a solid hit of hops and ginger before it fades to nothing.

I would recommend this beer as a good starting beer for people new to beer in general.  It is very pleasantly flavored without tasting too “beery” and not resorting to grotesque amounts of fruit flavorings.  For me personally, as a regular craft beer drinker, it seems to lack a little bit of the weight and body I look for when I peruse the micro-brew selection at my regular liquor store.  I’m sure there will be people out there that would love this, but I just don’t think I’m one of them.

Filed under: Craft Beer, , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Anderson Valley, Spring Hornin’ IPA

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I am slowly coming to terms that if I wish to continue trying out this pick-a-pack isle at my local liquor store, I better get used to sampling a lot of IPAs.  Can I ask for people’s opinion, are IPA’s just really big right now or does my stockperson have an unfair biased towards them?

Anyways, this IPA is looking rather interesting.  This is one of my first beers from California (specifically, Booneville), and the bottle alone has a different character to it than most beers I’ve tried so far.  It’s a 6.8% ABV Spring IPA.  It pours as a rich golden copper color and maintains a healthy froth of head for a good while after having been poured.

The scent coming off the beer as the head settles is very complex.  There are multiple sweet overtones that come out before the smell of malt and hops.  I get smells of honey, and  nutmeg, with just the barest hint of blueberry.  While the scent is dominantly sweet, it isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and has a very balanced personality.

My first impressions of the taste fall right in line with the scent from pouring this beer.  It has a very complex and balanced flavor.  A perfect blend of the sweet malts and flavorings with the tart dry flavor of hops.  The sweetness still reminds me of honey and blueberries, but this definitely is not a blueberry ale.  Another fruit that comes to mind is a slice of cold fresh peach.  It has a body to it that reminds me of eating a handful of fresh juicy fruit.  It’s sweet and refreshing, but the flavors are not overwhelmingly distant from a good traditional beer.  The hops are definitely present, but they don’t really kick in until the last few drops are sliding down your throat.  At the very last instant they bloom for just a fraction of a second and cleanse the sweetness off of your palate.  It helps remind you that this is definitely an IPA.

This is a very drinkable beer, and at 6.8% ABV I would say be careful when you drink it.  If I had a cooler of this next to me at a camp out I could easily see all of them disappearing before I had planned.  It is that tasty.  I say this for two reasons, I don’t want a high-alcohol content to creep up on anybody, and it is certainly no fun when  you burn through all your beer at a camp-out before you’re ready.

One last comment, this beer is remarkably complex and flavorful, without being too intense.  It is great for both beginners of IPAs and beer in general.  Aficionados of craft beer and IPA’s will also find this to be a remarkably enjoyable beer to try.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Southern Tier, Warlock Imperial Stout

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I am not normally the biggest fan of stout beer.  I made an example of IPA’s a while back about how IPA fans get acclimated and only like ridiculously hoppy IPA’s.  I could say something similar about most stout beers.  A lot of the stouts that have been recommended to me have been so thick and overwhelmingly rich, I felt like I should have given it a few smacks with a meat tenderizing mallet before trying to drink it down.

Despite this, I have been looking forward to trying Southern Tier’s Warlock Imperial stout all day long at work.  The Pumking Ale warmed me up to how amazing Southern Tier’s seasonal beers can be.  It’s also been so long since I’ve had a stout, that I’m actually ready for the experience of a richer sweeter beer such as this.

This Imperial Stout is brewed in Lakewood, NY at the Southern Tier brewery.  It still weirds me out that Southern Tier is based out of New York.  I would have expected it to be brewed in Georgia or something.  Anyways, like the Pumking, it’s 8.6% ABV, and it’s recommended that this Stout should be drank out of a goblet at 42 degrees F.  The bottle has a small laundry list of ingredients including: 2-row pale malt, carmel malt, black malt, munich malt, pureed pumpkin, magnum hops, and sterling hops.  Also at $8.49, it is not a beer you can cost-effectively indulge in beyond special occasions.  The strength means you can still get a good drink and share the bottle with three to four friends though.  Or, you can hog the bottle to yourself and be blazed for a good portion of the night.  As always, drink responsibly and don’t plan on driving after consuming this beer.

I didn’t have a true goblet, so I used one of my brandy snifters for this beer.  It’s working very well, especially because it concentrates the aroma of this stout very readily.  I can tell from the scent that this is a much sweeter beer than the Pumking ale.  It has a great natural pumpkin scent, but it reminds me more of pumpkin-pie ice cream as opposed to pure pumpkin pie.  There is a creamy vanilla undertone to the beer that pops out at you after the pumpkin hits.

On taking my first drink of this beer, I will say that I am tempted to remove my meat tenderizing comment from this article entirely.  This beer has a very strong rich flavor, but doesn’t carry the weight I most often associate with a stout.  While I wouldn’t recommend it as a beer to drink after a long hot sunny day, i would recommend it as a great Friday after work beer to relax and unwind with.  The entire flavor of this beer just immerses you like a warm sauna and helps float your problems away.  The first flavor that hits me in this beer is a strong bubbly presence of molasses and malt.  While strong it never gets too overwhelming.  Just when you think you’ve had enough of the molasses-y sweetness, it fades, only to be replaced with a nice sweet kick of pumpkin.  As with the smell, the pumpkin essence is a bit sweeter in this than Pumpking or some other pumpkin beers I’ve tried.  It makes me think of this as more of a dessert beer than anything else.  The pumpkin is also slightly more mellow than I expected, and adds to the relaxing atmosphere of this beer.

Because it’s a stout, i doubt I could drink more than this 22oz bottle at any given time.  Some of that is just personal preference, but you have to admit that as enjoyable as dark beers are, they are a bit more difficult to drink a lot of just because they are so rich.  I would still definitely recommend this beer for the experience of a great seasonal imperial stout.  It would also be great for first-timers to a stout or a seasonal flavored beer.  It captures all the great essences of these beers, without being too overwhelming.

 

Filed under: Craft Beer, , , , , , , ,