Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stone Collaboration Beers — The Alchemist/Ninkasi/Stone vs. The Bruery/Elysian/Stone

The Alchemist/Ninkasi/Stone
More Brown Than Black IPA
ABV 7.4%

The Bruery/Elysian/Stone
La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado
(Ale brewed with pumpkin, yams, toasted fenugreek, lemon verbena and birch bark)
ABV 5%

Stone Brewing in Escondido, CA continues down their path of world domination with a fun series of collaboration beers. They are often adventurous and ambitious brews so we always like to give them a try if we see them. We ended up with two in the fridge at the same time so we thought we'd let them have at it.

When compared to the rich, reddish brown La Citrueille, the More Brown Than Black (MBTB) looked pretty darn black to us. Based on the specificity of the name we had expected it to be a lighter brown. Instead it was quite dark, so dark in fact that neither of us were sure why they chose to point out its browness in the name.

The MBTB managed to quickly overcome its misleading name with a blast of grassy, piny, spicy hops in the aroma. The flavor was a hop assault as well with more piny, resinous hop character dominating the dark roasted malts. If you like massively hopped beers you should definitely look to pick this one up. The aroma alone will make you weak at the knees.

The La Citrueille was a bit confusing. Despite the laundry list (pumpkin, yam, toasted fenugreek, lemon verbena and birch bark) of brewing adjuncts it came across as a medium bodied, refreshing, pleasantly bitter beer. In the aroma we got floral hops, cedar and a pronounced cardamom presence which was weird since that was one of the few things they didn't add to the beer. Ellen had some fenugreek in her spice collection so we sniffed that which was exciting but neither of us could detect it in the beer. It finished with a mild coffee bitterness and was all in all a solid, well-made beer. 

Split decision: I chose More Brown Than Black because my craving for hops is ballooning out of control and Ellen chose La Citrueille because she is a sucker for anything French.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More Winter Seasonal Madness — Lagunitas vs. Anchor vs. Boulevard

Lagunitas Sucks
Holiday Ale
ABV 7.85%

2011 Anchor
Our Special Ale
ABV 5.5%

Boulevard Brewing
Nutcracker Ale
(Winter Warmer)
ABV 5.9%

Our exhaustive research of winter beers continues. You can go ahead and throw quotes around "research" if you want, but we assure you that this is serious business. This battle featured two California breweries versus one from Kansas City that has impressed us with its beers in the past. 

We were both disappointed to find that Lagunitas chose not to brew its excellent Brown Shugga due to capacity issues at their brewery. Their self-deprecating label revealed that they were disappointed as well, but decided to cave to the cash and keep pumping out their classic IPAs. They promised Brown Sugga next year so we'll see. The beer itself is much like most of their popular IPAs — high ABV malt bombs with fantastic hop aromas and moderate bitterness. For hopheads like us it tasted excellent. Our only concern is that the last three beers we've had from them seem very similar (Lucky 13.alt, Maximus IPA and this Holiday Ale). I hope they're not all just the same beer with different clever labels. It also didn't seem particularly "winter beery" if you know what we mean.

The Anchor Our Special Ale is more of a typical winter beer style — dark and malty with a secret blend of spices added for complexity. It smelled slightly sour with some hints of banana and tasted like Christmas with clove, cinnamon and cardamom and cola coming through. The finish was mildly bitter. We thought it was quite a festive quaff. 

Finally, the Nutcracker caught our attention as it was billed as a wet hopped winter beer meaning fresh hops were added to the beer shortly after being picked. Unfortunately it seemed like the fresh hop aromas were lost among more prominent aromas of apples and Belgian yeasty esters (despite not using a Belgian yeast). It had a smooth body and featured roasted malts, orange peel and piney hops in the flavor with a sharp, acidic, long-lasting finish. As you can tell, it had a lot going on and seemed to incorporate it all pretty well.

As far as a winner, we disqualified the Lagunitas because even though the beer was good they made no attempt to do anything special with it to make it seasonal. We could not agree on which of the remaining two beers was best so we had to call it a draw. We recommend buying both and hosting a battle of your own. Send us the details.     

Draw: Ellen chose the Our Special Ale, I chose the Nutcracker.