Transatlantic Tripel

•July 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

East meets West in The Bruery’s summer-time ale brewed with Thai basil and Belgian yeast. //Photo: Jason Ruiz

For centuries, sailors relied on prevailing winds to develop trade routes and transport goods across vast oceans. And, since 2008, The Bruery’s Trade Winds has been a summer ale so dependable that its kept Orange County craft brew fanatics circulating through their tasting room.


This Belgian-style tripel, like many of The Bruery’s ales, is uniquely brewed. Playing off its trade-route inspired name, it combines elements of both east and west. Or as the label states, “Spice from the East, yeast from the West”. Rice was used in place of sugar in the brewing process to help create a lighter body but increase the gravity of the ale. The spice of the beer, which lends it much of its sweet aroma ,is a product of the Thai basil. The addition of the Belgian yeast resulted in the tasty, golden ale they called Trade Winds.


The OC is home to finely-brewed ales, not just bad reality television shows. //Photo: Jason Ruiz

Like the ingredients in the beer, Trade Winds’ taste is very complex. It contains all the expected fruity, bitter-sweet flavors of a Belgian tripel but is lent some diversity from the spiciness of the Thai basil. Despite the competing flavors, they blend nicely into what is a very enjoyable and drinkable ale. The strength of the beer is even mellowed enough to hide the fact that this deceptively smooth Belgian packs a potent punch at 8.1 percent alcohol. The one draw back, albeit a minor one, is that Trade Winds is a little on the carbonated side. But, the pros still mightily outweigh the cons of this ale.


“Summer fun” is rightfully displayed on the label of the bottle as this is a perfect beer to enjoy during the dog days of heat waves. Light enough to quench your thirst and strong enough to satisfy drinkers more accustomed to strong ales, Trade Winds should be an addition to everyone’s fridge this summer. Pick up a bottle (around $10 per bottle) or if you’re fortunate enough, stop by The Bruery’s newly expanded tasting room. Cheers! (Choc-tee! For any Thai people reading this).


She Was Such a Sweet Girl

•June 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Always a pioneer in the craft brew circuit, Samuel Adams challenged itself in creating this chocolate-chili bock. //Photo: Jason Ruiz

By definition, a vixen is an ill-tempered, quarrelsome woman. Although, contemporary usage of the word suggests a more seductive, playful side, the word roots itself in a darker connotation. However, both usages suit Samuel Adams’ incarnation of a chocolate-chili bock that they appropriately deemed The Vixen.


The brewers at the research and development plant in Boston used chilies from Mexico, cocoa nibs from Ecuador and cinnamon from Southeast Asia to build this potent, black concoction beverage. The smell of chocolate is pronounced from the moment the cap is removed and the smell of alcohol lingers close behind.  The opaque fluid that pours from the mouth of the bottle resembles a stout or a porter as it settles into the glass with a creamy head at the top. As the name implies, this beer is quite boisterous, expressing herself  with a vigorous 8.5 percent alcohol by volume.


Samuel Adams’ The Vixen seduces you with its chocolate aroma and then strikes you with a potent one-two punch of chili and alcohol.//Photo: Jason Ruiz

To diagnose this beer in psychological terms: it is very bi-polar. Sweet at the onset and spicy at the finish. It pulls at your heartstrings with its rich, inviting aroma of chocolate but then the kicks you in the teeth as the heat from the chili peppers ravages your palate. The balance is lacking, though, and the taste of alcohol is poorly masked by the cocoa and peppers.


New Belgium Brewing company took a better swing at this style of ale with this year’s addition of Cocoa Mole Ale.  For any Sam Adams loyalists not ready to jump ship, The Vixen is moderately priced ($5.99 for a 22 ounce bottle) and worth giving a shot. The Vixen is part of Samuel Adams’ line of limited releases that include an English stout named Dark Depths and Tasman Red, their take on a red IPA.


Here’s Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch taking you through a tasting of The Vixen.


Video courtesy of Sam Adams

Beer For Breakfast

•June 18, 2012 • 2 Comments

The edgy side of coffee, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout is bolder than any roast a barista could pour for you.// Photo: Jason Ruiz

Some people love coffee. Some people love beer. But for those fence sitters who can’t choose a side in the battle of beans and booze, there’s a solution for you. Lagunitas Brewing Company (say LAH-GOO-KNEE-TUSS) based out of Petaluma, Calif. coalesced the morning jitters with happy hour resulting in a pint glass of black goodness they like to call Cappuccino Stout.


Rich in coffee notes and delivering a swift kick in the pants (9% alcohol by volume), the Cappuccino Stout delivers the best of both  brew worlds. It’s remarkably smooth despite the aggressive alcohol content. It pours out in the trademark black color expected of a stout, maintaining a frothy head until the last sip. However, for all the boldness of this beer, its silky on the pallet and goes down with relative ease. The intense flavor of coffee begs the question, is this okay to drink in the morning?


The Cappuccino Stout is part of a line of seasonal releases from the Northern California brewer. They employed a local coffee shop “Hard Core Coffee” to help build this beast of a stout. Traditionally, released in the colder months to help keep your spirits warm, Cappuccino Stout ($5 for a 22 oz. bottle) can be found year round.

Get your fix. It’s 8 a.m. somewhere!


Courtesy of Lagunitas Brewing Company

Harvest Time

•June 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

All hopped up with help from New Zealand, Southern Hemisphere Harvest is a treat for beer drinkers on both sides of the equator.//Photo by Jason Ruiz

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has come a long way from its modest beginnings in the Chico, CA kitchen of co-founder Ken Grossman. Since 1980, the brewery has infused creativity and passion with premium ingredients and traditional brewing techniques, making them one of the most recognized and respected craft brews in the country.



The 2012 Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale captures Sierra Nevada’s trademark hop-heavy taste while displaying the company’s clever brewing practices. Hops are like any other plant, they don’t grow year round. So, in order to remain true to their standard of using the freshest ingredients, Sierra Nevada went south of the equator to harvest crisp, New Zealand-farmed hops. They even took  the liberty of flying them to Chico to ensure they made it to the brew kettle the very same week they were picked.

This flavorful hop ale is too much to be contained by just one hemisphere.//Photo by: Jason Ruiz


Hoppy from start to finish, Southern Hemisphere Harvest showcases the blend of  New Zealand Motueka, Southern Cross and Pacific Hallertau hops. The blend creates a refreshing mixture of both bitterness and spice that goes down smoothly. The amber color of the beer is accompanied by the pungent aroma of those little green flowers that put smiles on hop-heads’ faces.


At 6.7 percent alcohol, Southern Hem. Packs more of a punch than Sierra Nevada’s flagship beer, Pale Ale. However, at $5 for a 24 ounce bottle, fans of the Pale Ale will find this to be a good change of pace. Drink up, this beer is always in season!

Holy Mole`

•April 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Holy Mole`.

Holy Mole`

•April 8, 2012 • 5 Comments

Everything from the spice of the beer to the sugar skulls on the bottle represents the Mexican culture trapped in this bottle.//Photo: Jason Ruiz

Best known for Fat Tire amber ale and its bicycle- adorned logo, New Belgium Brewing has been a major player in the craft brew scene for over 20 years. In contrast to their standard lineup of brews, the company’s “Lips of Faith” series has for years showcased New Belgium’s daring use of ingredients ranging from prickly pears to cranberries. Cocoa Mole Ale, the newest addition to the series, stitches together the worlds of chocolate and chili peppers inside one truly complex beer.


Mole is a traditional Mexican dish that’s composed of a thick, pepper-based sauce. To achieve this, New Belgium utilized Ancho, Guajillo and Chipotle peppers to create both a slight, smoky texture to the beer as well as a faint heat note at the end of every drink. The cocoa and cinnamon  used in the brewing process provide an inviting, sweet aroma as well as a chocolaty balance to the spice of the peppers. Think Mexican hot chocolate meets enchiladas, in a good way!



Packed with cocoa and chilies, Cocoa Mole Ale is like a fiesta in a glass.//Photo: Jason Ruiz


At 9 percent alcohol, the peppers in Cocoa Mole Ale aren’t the only things providing a kick. Despite its high alcohol by volume and its dark, root-beer like appearance, this brew goes down smoother than expected. The flavor profile might suggest that it’s a dessert beer, but its too good to just have one.


If you can’t afford a vacation to Central Mexico, Cocoa Mole Ale can provide you the essence of the culture for the price of a pint glass. And, at 9 dollars for a 22-ounce bottle, it’s a lot more affordable. Cheers!

The Swine Brew

•April 3, 2012 • 3 Comments

Rogue's Voodoo Doughnut will cast a hex that invokes the acid reflux demon in your digestive system.//Photo: Jason Ruiz

What’s more American than bacon, donuts and beer? For a nation that is bursting at the waistline, it was only a matter of time before somebody figured out a way to combine the three. Rogue Ales from Newport, Ore. did just that with their bacon maple ale named Voodoo Doughnut.


Rogue’s collaboration with the Voodoo Doughnut Shop in Portland seemed to be an artisan marriage made in donut-beer heaven. Combining the shop’s off-the-wall flavor combinations and Rogue’s bold flavor profiles, the two tried to capture the essence of a maple bar (with bacon strips) in a beer bottle.


The baker’s dozen of ingredients include three different types of smoked malts, real maple syrup and of course, Applewood-smoked bacon. As soon as the bottle is opened the aroma of maple and bacon permeates from its mouth. Its dark reddish brown appearance makes you wonder where the pancakes are. This is where the romance stops.

Like a Rogue wave, their maple bacon ale is relentless and completely out of left field.//Photo: Jason Ruiz


From the first sip the smoked malts dominate the flavor, making you feel like your mouth was the smokehouse with the Applewood chips. The saltiness of the bacon makes you feel like you’re eating a grand slam from Denny’s and so does the indigestion and stomach ache that follow. It’s fitting that the bottle is Pepto-Bismol pink because you’re going to need some to settle your insides.


The idea was a noble one but lacked execution. Maybe bacon and beer were meant to be enjoyed separately. Either way, in both price ($13 a bottle) and taste, Voodoo Doughnut is best to be shared with a group of adventurous friends.



Video courtesy of BeerGeekNation via Youtube.