Boatswain H.L.V. Ale — American Strong Ale — Minhas Craft Brewery — Monroe, WI, USA
A cheap bomber bottle from the local Trader Joe’s. What could go wrong?
I’ve recently been attempting to eat a more balanced diet, and my confused mind has directed me to TJ’s in order to find healthier alternatives. One great perk to shopping at the Joe’s is the bargain wine and beer aisles that take up half of the store.
And being on a budget, I’m always up for a bargain. $1.99 22oz. craft beer bombers? Yes, please. I spotted the Heavy Lift Vessel on the top shelf and dropped in it my basket.
The beer poured dark brown and produced a nice head of foam. The smell was grainy and sugary, similar to a dark molasses. I opened my blu-ray player, popped in Flight with Denzel Washington, put together a plate of provolone and peppered salami, and let the evening begin.
The taste was more pungent than the smell. The brew was sweet and loaded with toasted malt. I have to admit that the taste was smooth and clean, welcoming, but the texture was thick and syrupy, almost like drinking a bottle of NyQuil.
While the flavor was pleasant, the thickness of the beer caused my appreciation of the brew to fizzle out quickly. The ale developed the sensation of snot clinging to the back of my throat due to its syrup-like mouthfeel, causing me to quickly erase its presence from my tongue with another bite of cheese or meat. I wound up chugging the end of it just to be rid of it.
H.L.V. was much like a malty, alcoholic soda with too much high fructose corn syrup. This might be what some people want, and it wasn’t as bad as I might be making it seem. An awesome deal for two bucks, that’s for sure, but it’s nothing I would ever get excited about.
Pleasanton, CA, USA
Loitering on a quaint downtown main street while being poured various beers and fed homemade snacks inside boutiques, antique shops, and cowboy stores? Sign me up.
I found out about the Pleasanton Brew Crawl through my local event listing at LiveSV and bought my ticket the next day at Main Street Brewery in downtown Pleasanton (which I will discuss in another post).
It was a night for drinking with friends, and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a little early. I dressed up like the Mick I am and stopped by a friend’s place for some corned beef and hash before beginning our beer adventure.
We stopped by the Veterans Memorial Building, were given each our own bracelet, beer map, and glass, and shoved out the door. There are at least two breweries in Pleasanton that I know of, and many more around the Bay Area I was hoping would be represented at the event.
My friends and I took a quick glance at the map and saw 27 different pouring stations, and decided to start with the first place on the map.
A little knitting store called Knit This, Purl That. Inside we waited in line to taste our first beer. Before we got to the beer, we were offered some deliciously glazed sausage bits and cheese. Yum! This is going to be awesome, we all thought in one way or another.
And then we get to our first beer, which turned out to be warm Shock Top. Really? Our first beer on our crawl is going to be something served warm and brewed by Anheuser-Busch? What kind of whack beer tasting is this? I already did a tour of the Budweiser brewery, I don’t need to go through their lineup again.
But it continued. Stop after stop we were greeted by tasty treats, followed by Bud Light, Modelo, Budweiser Platinum, Beck’s, Stella Artois, Killian’s, and Shock Top AGAIN. And they were all poured from 12oz bottles. Not even on draft! No kegs! More than a thousand people at the event paid $30 to wait in line and be served crap beer from six-packs purchased at the local Walmart?
My group skipped the lines and jumped straight for the end of the tour and decided to work our way backwards. We succeeded in escaping the long lines, and were met with some better beer choices. Some local and not-so-local micro brews were represented. We came across Lost Coast, Lagunitas, Bison Organic Beers (there honey basil ale was the highlight of the night), Alaskan Brewing, and eventually both Handles and Main st. Brewery (the local joints) were represented.
Out of the handful of microbrews in attendance, I only found two where representatives from the actual breweries were speaking with passion about their products and had some sort of knowledge to give. The rest were poured by the shop owners or hired locals who knew nothing about what they were serving to us.
Though we still had a good time and got a little tipsy, the event did nothing to support the local breweries. There must have been no communication with the brewers in the area, who I have seen at other events proudly serving their suds. Instead, Pleasanton coaxed thousands of people to wander through aisles of yarn, equestrian equipment, clif bars, and lawn ornaments to guzzle down the paltry 4oz. pourings of warm Budweiser products.
Where was Buffalo Bill’s Brewery? Jack’s? Drake’s? or all of the other local breweries located less than 50 miles from the event? What a shame.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Gold Rush Coffee – Eureka, CA, USA
I go on a lot of road trips, and every time I drive along the Northern California coast I make a pit stop at Gold Rush Coffee in Eureka.
And this trip I make quite often. My family lives up in Oregon, and though the interstate highway would be faster, I more often than not choose the coastal route for its beauty and great driving roads. There’s the ocean, mighty redwoods, quaint towns, wine country; what’s not to love?
Gold Rush Coffee has been a destination I look forward to during every one of these trips.
I’ve only ever had lattes from this location, but each time they have been delicious. Not once have I received a latte through the drive-thru window which was lacking sweet foam, or had been tainted with expired espresso shots. Each drink was made to perfection, and I’ve come to expect latte perfection here more than anywhere else I visit.
They roast the beans themselves in Petrolia, California and take pride in what they do. Gold Rush Coffee has been a family business for over 25 years, building their own roasting and blending traditions by getting to know their farmers and selecting only the finest organic beans.
The building is odd and attention grabbing, which is why I stopped there the first time. The staff has always been friendly and helpful, even helping me choose between cookie flavors when I’m already pulled up at the window.
The only off-putting experience I’ve had was with a turkey sandwich. I was starving, putting off food a couple of hours because I knew I would be making the stop in Eureka, and the sandwich failed to live up to expectations. The thing was tasteless other than the extreme amount of black pepper they used. It wasn’t even a peppered turkey sandwich, but that thing was loaded with the stuff. The ingredients seemed fresh, but they just didn’t work.
Other than that, though, everything about this coffeehouse has been a delight. Love the lattes, fresh pastries, and honest people. I’ll be stopping by again sometime soon, I’m sure. Maybe I’ll give the sandwiches one more try.
Starbucks Casi Cielo 2013
Guatemala Casi Cielo has been a seasonal customer and employee favorite at Starbucks for years.
Casi Cielo is a well-balanced Latin American coffee which has gone through a washed processing, leaving behing a bean which is both light and clean in flavor. The packaging advertises the coffee’s lemon and dark cocoa notes, both of which intrigued me.
I prepared myself a press of this coffee in the early morning on a day off from work and sat down at my coffee table. I took in a big whiff of its perfumes, and this is where I was hit with the citrus. The coffee smelled of nuts and lemon. The aroma was warm and sweet, making me smile as it filled my lungs.
I took my first sip and felt it’s creamy texture spread across my palate. The balance of the flavors swept across every area of my tongue, and the weight of the coffee was unexpectedly light with all of the flavors involved. I picked up a taste of lemon, followed by a bit of saltiness, and finished with chocolate. The flavors held on throughout the entire cup, and the smooth texture was like cream. The body and acidity levels were perfect for each other.
Starbucks is very proud of this coffee, advertising that the company “collaborated with world-renowned chefs” to create the blend. The name itself is full of pride with “casi cielo” translating to “almost heaven” in Spanish. But the company does have reason to be proud. Casi Cielo is an excellent representation of what Latin American coffee can be.
I also had this coffee another time later in the day and paired it with a Snickers bar. The caramel in the chocolate bar popped with flavor when followed by a sip of Casi Cielo. I highly recommend this flavor combination. It’s difficult to convince people that pairing foods with coffees is truly a remarkable experience, but this is an easy one to get someone to try. Snickers candy bars are delicious, and Casi brings out the best in them.
This is a seasonal blend, so grab some before it’s gone or you’ll be waiting another year before you get to try it!
Widmer Milk Stout — Milk Stout — Widmer Brothers Brewing — Portland, OR, USA
A night all alone, without the darling. I decided to make it an evening for myself. While usually I reserve cigars for camping and other outdoor excursions, I felt like this specific evening was calling for it.
And I decided to make this a retrospective visit of a relaxing evening. I had received good news about my job after months of continuous work-related stress. I published my first novel a couple of weeks earlier and never celebrated it. This night was mine to have.
And since I was looking for a chill night by myself, I didn’t want my notepad or netbook next to me as I drank my beer. I took out one of my camping chairs, put it on the patio, and plopped myself down for an evening with the stars.
With me I had Widmer’s Milk Stout and a CAO La Traviata cigar. It was the most relaxed I’ve felt since I moved to California, which was over six months ago.
Usually I prefer stouts in small amounts. Chocolate stouts can become too sweet after more than a pint’s worth, and coffee stouts become too bitter. But Widmer’s Milk Stout was delightful the whole way through my 22oz. bottle. The body was light for a stout, but the flavor was creamy and delicious.
I love pairing drinks with foods. Whether it be a stout with a steak, a heffeweizen with some fish tacos, or a dark coffee with chocolate, but pairing a beer with a cigar was pointless.
The cigar was a light, delicate, tasty one by itself. I don’t know much about cigars, but I’ve had a few and this was one of the more pleasurable ones. I picked it because of its flavor profile, consisting of cream and roasted nuts. I thought it would work well with Widmer’s stout, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The cigar smoke and flavors totally overpowered and obliterated anything the brew could do. I could still get some taste from the beer when I took long breaks between puffs of the cigar, but together they did nothing for each other.
Yet this was not enough to detract anything from the experience. The night was wonderful. I felt the soft buzz of the beer and smoke, and what they did do well together was turn my muscles into warm pudding. I felt so relaxed and comfortable for the rest of the night. I can’t explain how good I felt. The feeling survived my hours of deep sleep and continued throughout the next day, even all the way to the end of my workday.
Looking back, I will probably never worry about pairing a beer with a cigar again. There is no reason to it if the smoke just takes over, but maybe it was a bad pairing, maybe I have more to learn. But I will reach for the combo again on a special evening. The feeling was magical, and it’s something I look forward to experiencing again sometime soon.
Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout – Oatmeal Stout – Rogue Brewery – Newport, OR, USA
I love oatmeal stouts. They’re my second favorite sub-category of beers after pumpkin ales.
This one has a great a dark, malty smell. Rogue’s Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout is heavy like whole milk in your mouth. Though the brew is thick, it’s flavors are subtle and very well-balanced. The finish leaves behind a nice, bitter dark chocolate flavor, much like biting into a cacao-loaded chocolate bar. Take a swig and let the stout sit around on your tongue for awhile. Let your buds get some quality time with this beer and the oat flavor will come through.
This stout is very mellow. If you swish it around the carbonation brings out a sourness on the sides of the tongue, like a chocolate soda. So smooth. So low key. I love it.
The beer kind of robs my mouth of its moisture, giving me dry mouth. Might be because I just got home from a long day of work and I’m probably dehydrated. Whatever. I always like to have some ice water around when I’m drinking anyway, so it doesn’t matter. This beer is awesome.
Abita Vanilla Doubledog – American Strong Ale – Abita Brewing Company – Abita Springs, CA, USA
This beer smells of vanilla, plain and simple. It pours like a bottle full of syrupy vanilla extract, foamy and rich like a creamy stout.
This 25th anniversary beer is a celebration of Abita’s brewing history. It has a much lighter body than I had expected. It’s a very dessert-like beer, but it’s not thick and heavy. It holds no weight when on your tongue and swallows like a thin-bodied skim milk instead of a full-bodied whole milk.
Flavors of caramel, toffee, chocolate, and vanilla swirl about. Now that the holiday season is over, I’m glad I’ve found Vanilla Doubledog because this beer satiates my holiday-drink craving. A bit of peppermint would make it perfect. Maybe I’ll hang a candy cane on my glass with the next bottle I grab.
As I get further into the beer its smell begins to burn like a vanilla root beer would in the back of my nasal passage, like a stinging carbonation. The fragrance is becoming somewhat unpleasant, but the taste is still great.
This is another beer that I think would be better enjoyed in smaller amounts. These 22oz bottles are too much for some of the more complicated and intense brews. So much volume ruins the experience. It’s kind of like how having a slice of cake can be nice, but you’d get yourself sick trying to eat the whole thing. I’m not even halfway through and it’s becoming too much for me. Maybe I need to lay off the sweet beers for awhile.
A pint or less would have been a better choice, and I would have enjoyed this beer from beginning to end. It’s deliciously tasty and fragrant, but it becomes overwhelming before long.