All The Rage?

•March 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Like its gonzo-artwork, Raging Bitch is gritty, raw and even a bit demented. //Photo: Jason Ruiz

Contrary to the movie Wedding Crashers, Maryland does a whole lot more than crab cakes and football. After starting its business in Aspen, Colo. in 1990, Flying Dog Ales is now nestled in the northwest corner of the state in Frederick and has been pumping out gonzo-inspired beers for over two decades.

 

Raging Bitch is one of those aptly named gonzo brews. This aggressive, Belgian-style India Pale Ale attacks the taste buds like a mescaline trip straight out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel. Although your tongue wont have to navigate through a  bar full of lizard-people, it will be left wondering what hell just happened to it (in a good way).

 

There's little disappointment to be found in Raging Bitch's lack of Belgian-style appearance.//Photo: Jason Ruiz

Despite the intense, concentrated rush of IPA notes to the palate, Raging Bitch is surprisingly smooth. But, at 8.3 percent alcohol by volume, one should be mindful of the pace they enjoy it at. The beer is extremely floral and crisp but its translucent amber color is confusing given that Belgian-style beers are slightly less see-through. It tastes nothing like a Belgian-style beer at all and only faintly smells like one. Although Raging Bitch isn’t what you’d expect by the description on the box it doesn’t diminish the quality of taste that resides inside its bottles.

 

Ralph Steadman, the artist for all of Thompson’s books and one of the co-founders of gonzo journalism, designs all of the brewery’s labels. And, at the bottom of every Flying Dog package lies a quote from a dear friend and ex-neighbor of founder, George Stranahan.

 

“Good people drink good beer.”-Hunter S. Thompson

 

Be a good person. Pick up a Raging Bitch.

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A Little Off Center

•March 23, 2012 • 6 Comments

The packaging screams spring-time but Aprihop leaves drinkers yearning for a different season. //Photo: Jason Ruiz

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales touts itself as a company that provides “off center stuff for off centered people”. For a brewery that has made beer with human spit, one would think that an India Pale Ale made with apricots is a pretty safe bet. However, Aprihop, was a little, well…off the mark.

 

Aprihop has all the hallmarks of an IPA. It’s strong (7 percent alcohol). It‘s floral. And its bitter. But, if you hold it in your mouth too long as you try and locate the absentee apricots, it will burn like industrial-strength mouthwash. The level of carbonation is quite uncomfortable. The CO-2 makes it hard to distinguish any kind of flavor profile other than burning and disappointment.

 

Having said that, the box dons a quote from Playboy Magazine stating that the beer has “over-the-top smoothness”. But, it’s not like Playboy ever puts out anything misleading. If Aprihop were held to the magazine’s standard and judged purely on its pristine, amber appearance, it might make a good pin-up. But, looks aren’t all that matter, and this beer is seriously lacking in character.

Aprihop is high in carbonation and short on apricots. //Photo:Jason Ruiz.

 

Dogfish Head is notorious for taking risks with the resulting products being very hit-or-miss. Unfortunately, this Spring seasonal-brew falls closer to the thumbs-down end of the spectrum. And at $10 for a 4-pack, Aprihop is a little hard to swallow in more ways than one. But rest assured, Fall will be here in no time, and with it comes the company’s ultra-popular and tasty Punkin Ale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogfish Head founder, Sam Calagione, talks Aprihop.

Just Like James, I’ll Be Drinking Irish Tonight

•March 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Buried under the marketing of its big-brother, Guinness, Kilkenny is a creamy secret that Irish beer drinkers need to uncover for themselves. //Photo: Jason Ruiz

Long before Against Me! was writing songs about drinking Guinness, St. Patrick’s Day was a holy day of reverence for Irish-Catholics. Now, what’s become a of day celebrating a culture  known for its dark beer, it’s ironic that green is the overwhelming drink of choice.

 

KilKenny isn’t the black, viscous sludge that’s become synonymous with Irish beers, but it’s a big part of the island’s history. Originally brewed by Smithwicks, which is Ireland’s oldest brewery, the beer borrows it’s name from a town in Ireland and it’s recipe dates back to the 14th century. That means this beer is older than this country!

 

It’s a nitrogen-infused, cream ale that’s red in color and smooth in texture. Using nitrogen to pressurize the barrels produces smaller bubbles than carbon-dioxide allowing for Kilkenny and other stouts and ales to maintain their creamy head. When poured from the draught, it resembles a Guinness until it makes the transition from muddy water to a brilliant amber color with a silky garnish of foam.

 

The beer is a bit deceptive because it drinks like a much thicker beer but tastes much lighter. Like it‘s more famous parent beer, Guinness, Kilkenny is not a very stiff drink (4.3 percent alcohol). However, it does go down a lot easier than the “milkshake of beers”.

 

Once only available at the Dubliner Pub in Washington D.C., Kilkenny can now be found nationwide on tap as well as in cans with nitrogen widgets to help deliver that pub feel at home.

 

Springing Backward

•March 11, 2012 • 4 Comments

Samuel Adams' newest beer, Alpine Spring, is crisp and refreshing but leaves one searching for a taste of something more. //Photo: Jason Ruiz

This year, the Boston Beer Company decided to replace their popular Noble Pils which debuted in 2009, with the inaugural batch of Alpine Spring. The new installment in Samuel Adams’ seasonal rotation resembles its predecessor in color, but that’s about it. In a week when clocks were turned forward in accordance with the Uniform Time Act of 1966, Sam Adams took a step back.

 

Alpine Spring is a lager-style beer but stands out because of its unfiltered brewing process. The result is a hazy, orange appearance that is synonymous with hefeweizens. However, the beer lacks any kind of particular taste profile. Namely, beer.

 

The company describes Alpine Spring as having a spicy, citrus flavor that’s a refreshing transition from the dark, heavy beers of fall and winter. The refreshing part is accurate. Alpine Spring is a great substitute for the many mass-produced, watered-down domestic brews that flood the market place. The beer goes down smooth and its relatively low alcohol content (5.5 percent) makes it a good session beer. But, anyone seeking out something with real character is best served making another selection.

 

Alpine Spring is only available from January through March. It retails for about $10 for a six-pack. Hurry out to try this beer before it’s gone…or just catch up on the lost hour of sleep instead.

It’s The End of The World As We Know It…

•March 4, 2012 • 1 Comment
Jason Ruiz

Elegant and assertive, Le Fin Du Monde embodies the hockey-loving country in which it's brewed. /Photo: Jason Ruiz

Even though R.E.M. was an American-rock band, they sure wouldn’t flinch at being grouped in with this Canadian beer. Unibroue, a brewery from the province of  Quebec, prides itself on manufacturing fine, Belgian-style ales. They didn’t strike out with La Fin du Monde, or, “the End of the World” for all you non-French majors.

 

The bar tender at 4th Street Vine in Long Beach did a superb job of pouring this ale, creating a head that resembled a whipped topping on a dessert as it rested inside its tulip glass. The foam provided a preview of what flavors were contained in the body.: A sweet, fruity essence with a bit of a spice that had a finish that smacked of champagne.

 

Despite the heaviness associated with this Belgian-style brew, La Fin du Monde goes down easy and doesn‘t leave you feeling like you‘ve eaten a loaf of bread. It‘s a little ambitious to think you could drink this beer all night given it’s alcohol by volume (a stout 9 percent). However, the combination of the fruity base flavor of the beer with the accompanying bitterness makes it a pleasant beer to drink and keep drinking. .

 

La fin du Monde is sold in a 4-pack and retails for about $12. Don‘t be scared off byit‘s apocalyptic title. Drinking this ale wont commence the rapture, and like Michael Stipe sang…you’ll feel fine.

The Maine Event

•February 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The attention to detail in the label underscores the amount of love poured into Allagash Tripel Reserve.

I discovered Allagash Brewing Company while on a trip to the East Coast. I always try to drink locally when I travel, and although I was in New York at the time, I felt that I should give this beer from Portland, Maine a try. I’m glad I did.

 

Their “Tripel” is the brewery’s version of a belgian style ale that utilizes three times the normal amount of malt in the brewing process…hence the “Tripel”. The extra malt and high alcohol content (9.0 percent alcohol by volume) contribute to the beer’s sweet aftertaste.

 

Despite the sweet flavor profile that’s supposed to have hints of honey and passion fruit, this is an incredibly bitter beer. The first sip is much like the taste of orange juice right after you’ve finished brushing your teeth. However, it’s only the first drink that’s awful. After that, they get exponentially more delicious. My advice to everyone when trying a new beer…take two drinks, the second sip is always better than the first. In this case, at $10 a bottle, there was an economic obligation to continue drinking.

It's suggested that Allagash Tripel be served in a wide mouth glass, a lack of patience led to the use of a pint glass.

 

This is not an entry-level beer. The alcohol content is just a few percentage points removed from being on par with a wine and can be a little bit overwhelming for some. It’s complex flavor is definitely an acquired taste that requires an advanced degree in beer appreciation to enjoy . However, Allagash Tripel Reserve gets the thumbs-up for future consumption!