Monthly Archives: May 2014

Ghost Face Killah

From Twisted Pine Brewing Co.

The Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers left behind a little tingle of capsascin and pepper.  THIS one I was scared of.  This one describes itself as the “Hottest beer this side of hell.”  Six kinds of hot chili pepper: anaheim, fresno, jalapeno, serrano, habanero, and <drum roll> ghost!
In the glass it’s a pretty apricot color with almost no bubbles. Brought to the nose…Christ that’s hot!  Intense hot pepper aroma, felt on the roof of my mouth even though my mouth was closed.  Eyes burning a little, blinking and a hint of tears.  I’m going to DRINK this stuff???

Taking a sip, there’s a momentary hint of smooth ale, immediately hammered into the ground by a mother load of peppers.  The heat arrives immediately and sweeps across whatever parts of your mouth you allowed it to touch.  No malt, no sweetness, no hops, no mere spice, just scalding heat . . . and then, as the fire dies down, a wave of pepper flavor.  No, this isn’t all heat and no flavor, it’s all heat and chili peppers.

My mouth puckered up a bit as if from strong tannins, my sinuses cleared, my skin tingled, my eyes itched just a little (and for god’s sake don’t rub them!)  As for the finish, well, I was nearly finished myself.  The pepper flavor goes on and on, with the heat gradually fading, and fading enough to think “That wasn’t so bad, how about another sip?”   

Sip, sear, repeat.

I managed to drink about half of the bottle, slowly, but at that point enough was enough.  I had heard the suggestion that if it was too hot, use the rest for cooking, but I was done with dinner and I was afraid that the fumes would take the finish off the refrigerator.  I used the last 6 ounces to clear the drains. Hopefully the pipes survived.

So, do YOU dare try this stuff? 

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” — H. Callahan

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Straffe Hendrik Bruges Quadruple Ale

From De Halve Maan Brewery, and the bottle states that the brewery was first mentioned in the town archives in 1546. Newcomer!

Can you call an ale intense and restrained at the same time?  I’ll go with that description here. The nose is very subtle, especially compared to the IPAs that often whack you right in the nose.  The initial sip gives plum and coffee on top of the classic Belgian yeast and malt, but does so in a subtle fashion.  This is worth sipping slowly and contemplating.  There is a long finish, and I’d call it coffee and toffee with just a faint hint of barbecue char.  I feel like I could drink quite a bit of this . . . in which case the 11% ABV would really make itself felt.

p.s. I’ll mention that it’s a nice pour with a moderate tan head, slowly fading to a little bit of lace. As I sip, I have to say that this is a very satisfactory brew, and that the ABV really does make itself felt!

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Bear Republic Tasting, Plus

I’m back from the Growler & Gill after a very interesting evening. The occasion was the tasting from Bear Republic Brewery, and this did not disappoint. They led off with the Racer 5 IPA, full-bodied and quite hoppy, a straightforward West Coast IPA. The next selection was Red Rocket Ale, described as a red ale like a Scottish strong ale. It’s interesting, somewhat full bodied and fairly hoppy, and neither of those things is typical of a red ale. Red ales aren’t my favorite, but I would rather have them crisper than this. Up third, appropriately, was Tripels Alley, a Belgian-style Tripel. This started strong with a mouthful of Belgian yeast and malt, classic stuff, followed by a wave of spiciness, especially coriander, and then finished up with an interesting, atypical little hop bite. The rep from the distributor said that Bear Republic likes to take styles to extremes. This worked great for me with the Tripel, less so with the Red. The tasting wrapped up with the Big Bear Black Stout, full bodied and malty, a bit of sweetness with hints of toast and coffee. Nice stuff.

After the tasting I was hard-pressed to choose one, but I went with the Tripel to go with jalapeno poppers. That worked very nicely with the maltiness complementing the pepper and the hops playing off the cheese.


Before the main event I tasted a few pale offerings. One was a Telegraph Pale Ale from California which I found to be a little thin. Then I tried Captain Lawrence Sun Block Pale Wheat. That made my palette sit up and take notice. Then I tried Rushing Duck Naysayer Pale Ale, another interesting one that I’d like to try again. Not an easy call, but I went with the Sun Block, a nice malt and caramel ale with a refreshing crisp edge to it. I had this with the G&G hummus plate: classic and red pepper hummus with pita bread, tortilla chips, olives, celery, and cucumber. The whole combo was very nice.

Of course I did some shopping on the way out, but those are chilling so you’ll hear more about them in coming days. Just now I’m sipping a super rich ale described as an American-Style India Pale Ale. It’s called Corne du Diable (Horn of the Devil) from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel!, from Quebec. The nose gives molasses and malt and a fermented hint that’s hard to place, similar to sourdough or maybe a freshly-opened jar of olives. On the palette this has a full-bodied yeasty maltiness with an even bigger shot of molasses and then good solid hop bitterness. Most unusual.

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Stone Smoked Porter w/Chipotle Pepper

Well, now *that* was interesting!  It’s basically the same as Stone’s Smoked Porter, except that there’s a faint sizzle of capsaicin on the finish, and maybe a hint of the flavor of the pepper as well.  Subtle–well, subtle if you like a touch of heat–and I really enjoyed it.  Now the question is whether the pepper makes this better, worse, or basically the same, and YMMV.  I think for me it’s a question of mood and whether I want a little extra challenge. Last night it hit the spot.

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Traquair Jacobite

Scottish Ale Flavored with Coriander.  Really interesting stuff, very dark brown, sort of a cola brown, almost no head at all, just some pale bubbles around the glass.  My first impression is chocolate, followed by a hint of tobacco, and then a hint of the coriander. After the first sip I’m getting some of the spice in the nose, maybe that takes a while to develop.  I have to confess that I drink my ales too cold, or start them that way.  However, I sip slowly, allowing them to come up to a better temperature.  I like the cool, but I know that the flavors come through better at a cellar temperature than at a refrigerator temperature.  This is one that starts good and grows better as it comes toward room temperature.  This is one that I found at Ramsey Wine & Liquor. This place has a great selection of beer and ale, and very helpful and knowledgeable staff.

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Party On

First of all, I have to say that a birthday party is not the best occasion for tasting beer.  There is too much else going on, particularly when only 3 of the 27 people are into craft beer.  Still, some excellent beer was poured.  We more or less led with Burton Baton, and that was as good as ever.  OTOH, it was worth the price of admission to see a friend’s face when he first tasted Le Freak. “Incredulous” comes to mind.

He brought me a 6-pack of Flying Fish Exit 16, a Wild Rice Double IPA (perhaps the world’s only wild rice double IPA!). That seems particularly appropriate as Exit 16 of the New Jersey Turnpike used to be my exit to get home to Hoboken. (Now I’m more of an Exit 18 kind of guy.) It’s very dry, and they say it showcases the hops.  Well, the hops are strong in the center and the finish, though the nose has a dry maltiness rather than a hoppiness.  This is very sippable, if that’s a word, subtle rather than commanding, very nice. 

I followed that up with something new to me, Green Flash Trippel.  I already know they do a great job with hoppy ales, well they do a fine Belgian-style as well.  This is something that deserves to be savored rather than somewhat lost in the shuffle of a big party. I wrapped up the night with another offering from my friend, Brooklyn Sorachi Ace.  That was a great choice for winding down at the end of the night, a generous saison, crisp and fresh.

There were other libations at the party, though I left them to others.  Hornitos Plata Tequila made for some excellent shots. Dirty martinis featured Russian Standard vodka, very well received.  There were mundane beers as well: Blue Moon with the requisite fresh orange, and Molson Canadian.  I have to say that either of those would be acceptable in a pinch, and those who like Blue Moon can be easily led to Weissbier and its relatives.  The red wine crowd–my tradition–was well represented, with good malbec and cab and California red blends.  On the white side there was a nice torrontes, and a Dr. L. Riesling which I enjoy when in the mood for white (which I was the next day). A bottle of chardonnay disappeared along the way.

Then last night I returned to the beer fold with an old favorite, Lagunitas Hop Stoopid.  It’s an excellent combo with Italian food.  The caramel notes complement the tomato sauce and the hops cut through the cheese and garlic so that the food plays off against the beer.  I think of “food wines” but less so of “food beers” and this is a reminder that I underestimate the beer.  The hops even produce a puckering similar to the tannins of a good red wine.  Another present from my friend at the party, a pair of Spiegelau goblets that will see excellent service. All in all, a great weekend.


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The New BPLF

  • The Beaker People: a Neolithic culture distinguished by their pottery drinking vessels, said to be for the consumption of alcohol. In other words, they brought brewing to Western Europe and Great Britain. Things have never been the same since!
  • Libation: the ritual pouring out of a liquid offering to a god.
  • BPLF: an organization–more or less–founded in the 1960s by science fiction fan Brian Burley to promote the production and consumption of beer.  It’s time to revive this noble cause, as we pour our liquid offerings, with the New Beaker People’s Libation Front!
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Green Flash Le Freak is ridiculously good.  Pale cream head, leaves more of a coating than lace on the glass.  Butterscotch and hops on a very assertive nose, with maybe a hint like nutmeg.  Medium to full body, coats the palette, flavors chase themselves across the tongue with spice and molasses alternating with waves of hops.  Yes, this is very hoppy and NOT balanced, but rather the hops swing in and out, more of a pendulum than a balance.  I want more of this!


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Dog & Cask

You’re probably sick of hearing about the Growler & Gill, so here’s a change of venue.  Janet & Lori and I went to the Dog & Cask in Rochelle Park.  I pass this place twice a day while commuting, but this is only the second time we’ve been there.  D&C is a full-fledged restaurant and bar with a trendy sort of menu and  a triple threat approach of beer, wine, and spirits.  For example, Janet had a flight of three wines grouped as “spice & fruit” with an old vine Zinfandel, a Petit Sirah, and (I think) a Malbec.  They even have flights of whiskies, cocktail specials, and the like.  In their menu last night they had an Infused Tequila Flight, with Guajillo Lime, Pineapple Jalapeno, and Barrel-Aged Tamarind.  As interesting as those are, I came in search of beer.

Lori does not like hops, so that limited her tap options. However, I know she likes Blue Moon so it was easy to suggest the Allagash White, and she liked it quite a bit.  I’m a hop head, so I had more choices, and I assembled a flight.  The first one was a Bolero Snort Longhop IPA.  This was a straight-forward session IPA, nice but not very distinctive, though I think you could have several of them at 4.2% ABV. The second was Brooklyn Blast IPA, and that was my favorite of the four with a nice shot of orange fading to peach along with a nice hoppy finish. It has some clout at 8.4 ABV. The third was a New Jersey beer, Kane Morning Bell.  This was a porter and a strong one at that, with touches of chocolate and smoke, 9.2 ABV, and a good bitter bite coming on the finish. The fourth was Smuttynose Noonan Black IPA.  It kind of confirmed what the woman from Green Flash had said on Thursday night, that a Black IPA tends to mask the hoppiness.  There was a slight creaminess to it, and a spiciness, with hops coming along late on the finish. Probably my #2 in the flight.

They have some excellent choices in bottle, including Dogfish Head Burton Baton and Ballast Point Sculpin, but since I already have those in the fridge I was headed for new things, and I had a Cask Conditioned Ale, Caron Red Rye Returning.  This is hand pumped, and was very smooth and fresh with a nice rye character almost like a hint of whiskey, served close to room temperature. Nice stuff.

We went on the light side for food: excellent red pepper hummus, roasted olives with almonds and cranberries, a cheese board with five different cheeses (including my favorite Beemster), and I had a Scotch Egg.  I had seen it on the menu online and had no idea what that meant, so looked it up.  It’s an egg (surprise!), sometimes hard-boiled, wrapped in sausage and quickly fried. This one was more like soft-boiled with turkey sausage. Very tasty.


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Green Flash Tasting

So I made it to the Green Flash tasting at Growler & Gill . . . despite a very minor bumper bender on the way home.  I wasn’t driving, no one was hurt, no real damage (couldn’t see a mark on one of the three, and barely a mark on the one I was in).  I may be coming down with something . . . it takes more than this to keep me away, and there were no fuel trucks this time.

There was a representative from Green Flash, and she was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable.  Curiously, she poured all the selections from bottle even though some of them were on tap.  So what was the lineup?

30th Street Pale Ale, one of the bi-monthly Hop Odyssey series that they have running this year.  Yes, it’s a pale ale, but it’s a pale ale from a San Diego hophead brewery.  It comes in at 40 or 50 IBU.  Nice crisp flavor, medium body, somewhat “beery” nose, and maybe a hint of fruit.

West Coast IPA, their staple beer, a canonical west coast IPA.  Actually didn’t taste hoppier than the pale ale, what comes through first, even on the nose, is a strong fruitiness.  The hops snuck in on the finish.

Le Freak, a Belgian-style IPA.  I think that’s a misnomer, because I’ve had Belgian ales with hops, but this is a serious IPA with Belgian overtones.  In fact, it’s serious enough that the IBU is over 100 (on a scale of 0 to 100). However, what comes through first is a nice maltiness, and the bitterness is in balance.  Good stuff, and I have a nice bomber in the fridge.

Black IPA, another in the Hop Odyssey series, rich and super dark with a spiciness and no question about the hops.  Our presenter noted that a lot of black IPAs really don’t show their hop character, but this one does, and it’s about 80 IBU.  I brought home a bomber of this, too.

With my light dinner (cheese & charcuterie) I had a Black IPA, so clearly  I like it a lot.  I also had a taste of one that I missed last week. That was a tasting of Anderson Valley, a brewery I had not heard of. There were still several on tap, and I tried the Wild Turkey Bourbon Aged Stout.  It would be a tough call between that one and the Central Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout.  This year, I might give the nod to Central Valley, but the G&G retail manager noted that Central Valley hit it big this year because they were able to get barrels from Heaven Hills Bourbon, very good stuff, but nobody knows what barrels they will be able to get next year. Anderson Valley has signed a multi-year deal with Wild Turkey, so their product should be more consistent from year to year.  [I’ll have more Anderson Valley notes because I brought two kinds home with me.]

So, am I done with my Green Flash report? Not yet.  I’m sitting here sipping a Green Flash Grand Cru.  That one was neither on tap nor in the tasting, so I grabbed a bottle.  As soon as I opened the bottle my nose sensed chocolate.  It was more an impression than anything else, the nose of the ale is malty rather than chocolatey, though there is something going on, maybe a bit like Mexican chocolate or an herbal beverage.  On the palette there’s a hint of coffee and and almost a liqueur . . . maybe like a Kahlua ale. As you may guess, this would go great with a mole sauce.  Nice stuff.

A successful evening.


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