Alright, technically summer ended a few weeks ago, but Las Vegas tends to hang onto the summer weather a bit longer than most cities.
This past summer (which started in April in Las Vegas) I was really into beers that were lower in alcohol, and preferably, a bit sour. These beers are perfect for Las Vegas summers. The lower alcohol means a lighter body, which increases drinkability and adds a nice refreshing quality to it.
Sour beers are a bit of another story, but if it’s a little tart, and low in alcohol, it has even more refreshing qualities to it. Think of lemonade, for example.
Berliner Weisse beers fit this description perfectly. Here’s a quick run down: German origins, features around 50% wheat in the ingredients list (much like a hefeweizen), low alcohol (traditionally under 4%), and a little bit of tartness. Napoleon’s troops referred to this style as “Champagne of the north” (according to the BJCP). Champagne is a fair description. Mimosa may be a little bit more accurate.
If you are new to sour beers. Berliner Weisse would be a good starting point. The tartness comes from the lactic acid cultures that are used in the fermentation process. Lactic acid adds a green apple level of sourness. Careful though, some are only mildly tart, others are puckeringly sour.
Sadly, this isn’t an overly popular style beer. The most readily available Berliner Weisse in Las Vegas would be Dogfish Head’s Festina Pêche. It’s their summer seasonal beer, so it’s not necessarily that readily available. Also, they call it a “neo-Berliner Weisse” so don’t expect this to be a traditional representation of the style.
If the name didn’t tip you off, it’s made with peaches. The aroma is filled with the smell of ripe peaches. It is very light body and has a crisp finish. The flavor is very peachy throughout, but it isn’t a sweet, sugary beer. It would be in the lightly tart range in the sourness scale.
Extremely refreshing beer. If you still find some around town, (honestly, a bit unlikely) scoop it up and enjoy while it’s still warm outside!
First, let me express my surprise in seeing the amounts of pumpkin and fall themed beers that are on the shelves already. And they’ve even been there for a couple weeks now! I can’t even buy a pumpkin at the grocery store, how the hell are there so many pumpkin beers available?
That aside, the pumpkin beers are here. Now, I don’t claim to be any sort of pumpkin beer connoisseur, but damn it, Dogfish Head’s Punkin has got to be one of the best pumpkin beers there is. At the very least, it’s got to be the best pumpkin beer available in Las Vegas.
As is the case with most pumpkin beers, Punkin is brewed with not only pumpkin, but also various spices that are traditionally used in making pumpkin pie. While this gives many pumpkin beers an artificial and exaggerated smell of pumpkin pie, Punkin is well balanced and uses real ingredients making the aroma of this beer jump out at you like a real pumpkin pie. The aroma is spicy, sweet, sugary, with a hints of clove and a graham cracker crust. This has such an amazing aroma, I recommend putting this beer in a some sort of tulip or cognac glass to best experience it.
There is a moderate hop bitterness in this beer, but it is only present in the initial taste, fading away to reveal a well balanced brown ale, sweetened with pumpkin and clove flavors. The aftertaste lingers in your mouth the way a bite of pie does, drawing you in to take another sip.
If I had some vanilla ice cream sitting around, I would have made a float out of this beer. Please go out and buy this beer while it’s available, and if you find a better pumpkin beer, let me know!
Stone has really been on an IPA kick lately. In past year, or so, they’ve released 6 new IPAs that I can think of. 15th Anniversary Escondidian Black IPA, Japanese Green Tea IPA, More Brown Than Black IPA, TBA (not labeled an IPA, but it’s a “hopppy, bitter, brown ale), Enjoy By IPA, and now 16th Anniversary IPA. This is a double IPA brewed with rye, lemon verbana, and lemon oil. Here are some of my tasting notes:
The beer has a bright crystal clear golden hue. It has a strong lemon rind smell, along with a wet grass and flowery aroma. Despite having lemon oil in the beer, the hops don’t veer too much in the citrusy direction. Instead the hops have more of a clean bitterness with more of an herbal flavor . The finish is a sweet, sugary lemon finish, with the rye spiciness balancing it out.
This definitely a different take on an IPA. Whereas Dogfish Head used Hellhound On My Ale to make a lemon IPA bursting with citrus flavors, Stone goes a different direction and instead uses the lemon flavor to accent more of a grassy, flowery, earthy IPA.
The one aspect of this beer that threw me off a bit was the mouthfeel. This beer seems to have a bit of a heavy body. In addition to this, there isn’t too much carbonation either, giving this beer an almost syrupy consistency. At 10% alcohol, it is in the high end for beer, but the mouthfeel is almost comparable to the beers that have more than 14% alcohol. This still is a great beer, and it hides it’s alcohol well, but the consistency of this beer makes it difficult to want to drink more than a small glass. I think a lighter body, and stronger carbonation would make this beer a bit more refreshing to have in the current 100+ degree weather. Once the temperatures drop, this will make a nice cold weather beer.
Prior to this writing, I had some difficulty finding where this beer was available. It didn’t seem like it was immediately available like last years 15th Anniversary beer. I grabbed the only bottle I saw at Whole Foods in Town Square. However, it has been confirmed on Facebook and Twitter that the beer can also be found at Aces and Ales and both Total Wine locations. Also, despite only seeing one bottle at Whole Foods, I can confirm that they have 13 cases left.
Despite being released in December, Tweason’ale is finally available in Las Vegas. I found some at the Whole Foods on Las Vegas Boulevard, but I’m sure it is likely available anywhere else that sells Dogfish Head’s beers.
Tweason’ale is Dogfish Head’s first attempt at making a gluten free beer. As they put it, they wanted to “make it with gusto.” They used sorghum, as most gluten free beers do (except for Joseph James’ Foxtail, which is one of few gluten free beers that do not use sorghum) as the base of the beer. To try and some more flavor to the beer, they also added buckwheat honey, which typically has bit of a malty, earthy taste in comparison to most other honeys. And since it is Dogfish Head we are talking about here, they also added strawberries for good measure.
The result is a beer that almost has more in common, flavor-wise, to wine than it does to beer. The sorghum is barely, if at all, present. The body is very dry and crisp, similar to a lager or white wine. There isn’t any obvious strawberry flavors, however there is a hint of acidity from the berries, which also makes this beer taste more similar to white wine in that regard. The aftertaste leaves some honey sweetness to make the finish not quite as acidic as most wines tend to be.
All in all a very refreshing beer, but probably not for most beer drinkers. If you are a fan of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch or Chateau Jiahu, then you are likely to enjoy this beer as well. Definitely worth trying nonetheless, especially now that Spring seems to be in full effect.
April 21, 2012 marked the second annual Great Las Vegas Festival of Beer, held once again at Tivoli Village. Last year’s festival was a bit underwhelming. There was little room, and a strong lack of organization. I’m pleased to say that this year, they seemed to alleviate both of those issues. The space given to the event was three times larger, and the overall professionalism of the event was greatly improved. While I could do without loud bands playing throughout the event, I’m sure that many people enjoy the live music atmosphere. Now…on to the beer!
My wife and I decided to be fancy and go with the VIP tickets this year. This allowed us to enter an hour early, and to enter a “Brewer’s Lounge” with food and special beers. The special beers were simply bottled Ommegang beers, which are available at most liquor stores, and Tailwagger Wheat, and Rebel Red from local Big Dog’s Brewery. While these are all solid beers, there is nothing really special about them. With that being said, the VIP tickets were worth the extra $10 for the early entry. By the time Tivoli Village started filling up, we had already made one lap around the area.
I was very happy to find some nice surprises amongst the beer selections this year. Noble Ale Works was in attendance, sampling their IPA, Pale Ale, and phenomenal Alpha Red. Hopefully we will see these on Las Vegas shelves sooner than later! (UPDATE: Khourey’s Fine Wine is currently carrying Noble Ale Works) Dogfish Head were pouring both their refreshing Aprihop, as well as their coveted 120 Minute IPA in the “Hop Tent.” Stevens Point and Three Monkeys, both new to the Vegas market, were also in attendance. I quite enjoyed the Brown Barrel Ale from the latter, and their Tres Vasqueros Amber Ale is about as fine of an amber ale as you will find! I was only able to try the Cascade Pale Ale by Stevens Point, but it was a nice, if unspectacular pale ale. Other breweries in attendance, included Wasatch, Squatters, Crispin Ciders, Unibroue, Green Flash, New Belgium, Left Coast, Uinta, Firestone Walker and Ballast Point.
Not to be outdone, Las Vegas’ locals had a fantastic showing of their own! On hand were breweries, Tenaya Creek, Joseph James, Big Dog’s, and local craft beer bar Aces and Ales. Aces and Ales were pouring two fantastic Rogue selections in XS Imperial IPA and Brutal IPA. Tenaya Creek had a fine selection of their own local brews, including Calico Brown and their Hop Ride IPA, which made it to the Elite 8 in the National IPA Championships! Thankfully, if you missed out on either of these brews, you can always visit the brewery year round! Big Dog’s really managed to surprise me with their Alpha Dog double red imperial ale. Big Dog’s has always been hit or miss for me, but this hoppy concoction won me over at first sip! Last, but not least, is Joseph James. Joseph James had their stellar Hop Box and Tahoe Blue on hand, but what really blew me away was their “experimental” crafts. The first beer they unveiled was a Cherry Pie Blonde Ale. In my opinion, this was a splendidly refreshing beer with nice subtle notes of cherries. The second new brew that they unleashed, was appropriatley titled Baby J’s German Chocolate Cake Stout. All in all, this may have ended up being my favorite beer of the event! Just as the name implies, this was German chocolate cake in a glass! Big, chocolate and coffee stout flavors, with a perfectly balanced coconut flavor throughout. I really hope this one ends up in a bottle someday soon!
Overall, I would highly recommend that any lover of craft beer does not miss this event next year! Las Vegas craft beer needs your support, and the prices ($27 for regular, $37 for VIP) are very reasonable when you consider the amount of beer you will be experiencing!
The short article above points out that while Dogfish Head and Sam Adams may argue their “overrated” status as simply a result of their popularity, the truth is that a majority of the posts on the Beer Advocate thread that started all this, was based on the quality of product not matching the price charged for some of the more hyped beers.
I can see both sides of this argument. It is understandable that if you are going to spend more money on something, you expect it to be better than something that costs less. The other factor however, is that some beers simply cost more to make. Dogfish Head makes several seasonal beers that cost anywhere from $8-$16 for a 25 oz bottle. These beers will include ingredients that are not typically in traditional beers, causing the beer to cost more to produce and in turn, more to buy. However, most of these beers are unlike anything that costs less, both in magnitude of flavor and texture. Due to the intensity of these beers, an individual’s personal taste preferences play a much bigger role.
This leads me to believe that the reason people find Dogfish Head overrated, is because of both price and popularity. I think this is an overarching issue for craft beer in general; public interest in craft beer has grown tremendously without public knowledge of craft beer growing to match the interest. Many consumers are buying the higher end craft beers without fully understanding what it is exactly they are spending their money on, why it costs the way it does and when it would be appropriate to drink said beer.
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA costs around $8-$10 a six pack. 120 Minute IPA costs the exact same, but for only one 12 oz bottle. It has close to the same amount of ingredients as the six pack and takes much longer to produce. Economically, it makes sense why it costs what it does. However, this is not a “better” beer and it can never take the place of 60 Minute IPA in the situations where 60 Minute really shines. If you are having a barbecue on a hot summer day, I do not recommend you drink a six pack of a sweet, syrupy, 18% alcohol beer.
What is the right way to price beers? For beers brewed in America, I feel the current prices make sense. Granted, I’m comfortable enough in my knowledge to know what I’m getting into if I decide to spend a bit more on something. I’ve rarely (if ever?) spent more than $10 on a beer and didn’t like it. This isn’t to say that I have some sort if refined palate or anything, I just know what styles I appreciate and enjoy more and what styles are on the opposite end of that spectrum. There are certainly beers I would not pay more than $10 on. Not because they are bad beers, they are simply not styles that I like enough to spend that much on. I’ll happily spend more on a good barley wine or stout, but a Flanders ale? Not so much.
But what tools are available to the average consumer who may not know what their preferences are? As craft beer becomes more popular, I see the need for more professionals who have a strong knowledge of beer being needed in customer facing environments to help guide the consumers to the best choice for them. The staff at a retailer, restaurant or bar should be knowledgeable enough on their selection to help guide and educate consumers on what beers they should try and which ones they should be steering clear of. Otherwise, without these resources we are doomed to continue in the future of these polar views of what beer is good and what is overrated.
Good post continuing on Sam Calagione’s Beer Advocate post and Armando’s recent article on craft beer and metal.
What craft beer can learn from metal
I originally sat down to write about more of my San Diego visit, but then I found inspiration from another source: Sam Calagione’s rant about overrated breweries. (which you can read here: http://beeradvocate.com/forum/read/4343008)
Since I picked up …And Justice for All, I have been a metalhead. Through Metallica, I discovered Slayer, then Iron Maiden, then Testament, S.O.D., Death Angel, Sodom, and the list goes on. Next thing I know, thanks to accidentally tuning in to 91.5 college radio (back in 1994), I was plunged into a whole new world of darkness. I discovered extreme metal. Metallica, Testament, and Death Angel were replaced by Darkthrone, Cannibal Corpse and Decide. What does this have to do with beer you ask? Follow with me.
I used to hate beer…HATED it. Budweiser, Coors, Corona. I asked myself how anyone could drink this crap (Note: I still do.). One day at a wedding, my friend Jason made me reluctantly drink a beer with him. That beer was Newcastle, and a new love for beer began. From Newcastle, it was Guinness, or whatever fancy sounding beer that I could find at my local grocer. After reading an online beer blog, I went in search of Dogfish Head and Stone. My tastebuds, and my life to an extent, would be forever altered.
After my first experiences with true craft beer, I knew I could never go back. From Stone and Dogfish Head, I went on to try Rogue, Anchor, New Belgium, and the like. The more I got into beer, the more I started to seek out lesser known breweries and indulge in the fermented goodness that they had to offer. I still loved my Dogfish Head and my Stone, but I started to see them as breweries that were too well known to satisfy my palette. I made a huge mistake.
Fast forward to the early turn of the century. The bands I mentioned earlier, Darkthrone, Cannibal Corpse and Deicide were not what they used to be. People started calling them mainstream and searching for darker and more obscure music. Xasthur, Leviathan, and Pest were in, while the old guard were overrated. Metal fans became divided. Black metallers hated thrashers. Death heads hated power metallers. The Neo-Socialist black metal fans hated everyone (and everyone hated them). Words such as “trendy” were being aimed at bands that never sold more than 10K records, and the genre became more about street cred, than about the music.
I already see this happening with craft beer fans. People are turning their noses up at great breweries, because they have become “too big.” It’s becoming more about trying the most obscure ales that you can, rather than drinking the more common craft beer that you can find at your local wine shop. Stout fans talking crap about Stone. Porter fans snubbing hef lovers. Everyone still hating InBev fans. (That last one is not a bad thing.)
If you haven’t heard about the bands I listed earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised. I expect it. As metal fans became more divided we effectively killed every chance we had of the bands we love becoming big. As the scene split further and further, the originators were left behind, and new bands still have trouble gaining any following. I wish I could say there is a happy ending to this, but there isn’t.
However, there are bands that have “made it.” I’ll use the bands Enslaved and Emperor as examples. What these bands did, was refuse to rest on their laurels. They continued to experiment and to push the boundaries of what they could do. While the so-called true metalheads may shun them, they have an entire fan base that is happy to enjoy the music that they craft. Sound familiar?
Dogfish Head and Stone have never sat back and become complacent. They continually work at crafting new and interesting brews. They continue to gain new fans and continue to grow.
As craft brew fans, we need to applaud this. We need to support the breweries that are doing things to help the industry grow. When we start throwing around terms like “overrated,” we start to polarize one another, and the community begins to slowly break down. If the community breaks down, then the brewers that work so hard to produce the liquid that we love will never be able to see that work pay off.
I love Stone beer. I love Dogfish Head. I would love to see more and more beer drinkers reaching for 60 min. IPA and Arrogant Bastard than Bud Light and Coors. I myself realized that the more I searched for obscure beer, I was missing out on fantastic beer that was sitting right in front of me.
This is not to say that seeking out new brews is a bad thing. It’s just that we can never forget what got us here, and the breweries that are trying to make it better for everyone. I believe that Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head and Greg Koch from Stone want to see craft beer continue to grow. At the end of the day, they’re beer geeks, just like us. So I urge everyone to continue to spread the word about craft beer and to show respect to all craft breweries.
No one remembers great metal bands such as Manes, Death Reality and Mindset Rage. If we continue to break apart our community, the same fate may be in store for a lot of great breweries.
India Pale Ale. Better known as it’s modern day, and less historically accurate cousin, IPA. One of the most popular craft beer styles in America, especially here on the west coast. In 2011, I had 52 different IPAs total. Of these 52 different IPA’s, I’ve managed to choose my favorite 10 that I had the pleasure of consuming this year. And by 10, I really mean 17. Enjoy, in no particular order:
Dogfish Head 120 Minute/90 Minute/60 Minute IPA/Aprihop
This might look like 4 different beers, but to me I see 4 different variations of the same beer. These are the most approachable of the IPAs, with more so a strong hop aroma and flavor rather than bitterness.
The 60 and 90 are available year round. The 120 is only available a handful of times a year, and is hard to find when it is. Aces and Ales happened to get it on tap and Whole Foods and Khoury’s sold out of the bottles immediately. Aprihop is a variation of the 60 Minute with apricots thrown in, available in the spring time.
Stone Cali-Belgique IPA/IPA
Stone IPA is one of my favorite IPAs and a great example of the “west-coast style IPA.” This is a strongly bitter beer with a bright, citrusy aroma. It is available nearly everywhere that sells beer and on tap at nearly all the PTs as well as Millers Alehouse and Yardhouse.
Cali-Belgique is the same beer, but made with a Belgian yeast strain. This is the best Belgian style IPA I’ve had. The Belgian yeast adds a little bit more fruitiness to the beer that compliments the citrus flavors.
Despite being a year-round brew for Stone, Cali-Belgique can only be periodically found in Las Vegas.
Lagunita’s Sucks Holiday Ale
Probably the heaviest hop aroma of all these beers, this IPA is incredible. Loads of sweet, citrusy aroma. Very sweet and smooth body and very drinkable.
This is only a seasonal ale that was brewed in place of Brown Shugga’. This is still available in bottles around town and is currently on tap at Tenaya Creek Brewery.
Coronado Cask Idiot IPA
Neither the cask version, or the normal version is available in Las Vegas. I had this beer in San Diego. I never had the normal version, but the cask version was probably the smoothest IPA I’ve had. It wasn’t overly bitter and had a bit less aroma then the other IPA’s on this list. Being as it was on cask however, is what made this beer stand out from the rest. Soft texture, lightly carbonated and full of earthy, piny hop flavor.
Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA/Sculpin IPA
Sculpin IPA is one of the highest rated IPA’s on Untappd. It is another “west coast style” IPA in that it has a strong bitter bite with huge grapefruit flavors and aromas.
Ballast Point recently started distributing to Las Vegas, but are keeping Sculpin in California.
If you visit the brewery in San Diego, they may have Habanero Sculpin on tap. This is a version of Sculpin with habanero peppers thrown in. The pepper flavors compliment the hop bitterness perfectly, and it adds a nice burning finish!
Baird/Ishii/Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA
A truly incredible and unique beer. This one had mixed reviews from people as they felt that the citrusy hops didn’t go well with florally aroma and tea flavor. Like I said, it’s very unique and I thought it was awesome. Sadly, it was only brewed once and was never available in Las Vegas.
Maui Flyin’ Hi.P.Hay/21st Amendment Hop Crisis
Technically two different beers from two different breweries, but I’m grouping these together as they were both amazing IPAs and both from cans. Both had amazing hop aroma bursting out of the can and a great citrusy flavor.
Maui Flyin’ Hi.P.Hay is apparently a limited release beer, but I feel like I saw it in town recently. Maybe not?
21st Amendment Hop Crisis is also a limited release beer and sadly, the brewery does not distribute to Nevada.
Dogfish Head Hellhound on my Ale
As you can tell, many of these IPAs are being described as “citrusy.” This beer actually was brewed with lemons! As such, it had a nice sweet lemony flavor pairing with the harsher citrus bite from the hops.
This was a special release beer commemorating blues guitarist Robert Johnson. It was brewed twice last year and may still be available in town.
Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Variation of the IPA style, a black IPA is both hoppy and roasty. This particular beer is probably the greatest black IPA there is. Very full bodied, soft texture and a wall of leafy hop aroma.
Brewed this summer for Stone’s 15 anniversary, there are no plans to brew this again. Good news is that it’s still available in town. I recently saw it at both Khoury’s and the Las Vegas Blvd Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, then you should try…
Stone Double Dry Hopped Sublimely Self Righteous Ale/Sublimely Self Righteous Ale
This beer is available year round in bottles and can be found on tap at Yardhouse. Sublimely Self Righteous Ale is very similar to Stone’s 15 Anniversary ale except there is a little less alcohol and less body making this less filling and more drinkable. Still has the wall of hop aroma that hits you right before your first sip, this is one of my favorite beers!
Earlier this year Aces and Ales had a double dry hopped variation. What this means is that there was even more hop aroma bursting out of the glass, making this an even more flavorful beer than it already is!
All of the above images were taken from the respective brewers’ websites.
The bottle label for Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA has been released.
75 Minute IPA is a blend of their 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPAs. Dogfish normally only makes this beer for their brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware or for special events and festivals, so it’s nice to see them bottling it for more people to enjoy.
The label states that this bottled version will be bottle conditioned with maple syrup. To bottle condition a beer means that instead of force carbonating it after fermentation, additional sugar is added at bottling time resulting in an additional fermentation period inside the bottle. The benefits of carbonating beer this way is that it gives the beer a smoother carbonation but it also makes it ideal for aging, since there is still living yeast inside the bottle changing the beer over time. Since maple syrup is being used, this beer will have some additional complexities and flavor due to the longer sugar chains, called polysaccharides, that normal ale yeast cannot consume.
No release date has been set yet for this beer since Dogfish Head have not even made an official press release. The label art looks rather festive so here’s to hoping for a December release!