Monday, December 21, 2009

Why Do This?

This being the first day of NDJB, I thought it would be a good time explain what the hell I thought I was doing. First of all, besides the fact that my best friends live in Portland, I go there to buy beer. That's right, 150 miles just to buy beer that I can't get up here in the rarefied air of Seattle. And my wife thought (in my direction, out loud): why not write about the ones you like?

We have lots of good ales up here, don't get me wrong, but we don't get all the San Diego brews, and San Diego has become one of the premier craft brewing cities in America.

It all began with one beer (for me): Stone Brewery's Arrogant Bastard Ale.

I bought this at our local big-name grocery store (who doesn't need the publicity), and I was frankly shocked that they would stock something with this rude a name, and (if you read the fine print on the bottle) this bad an attitude. I don't think there are that many people who would drink a beer just because it mocks them... Then again, being a male of the species, we tend to take these sort of challenges as an affront to our manhood. Or we fool ourselves into thinking we're too mature to take up such challenges, and go on drinking the half-flavored pee that passes for beer in America.


What I discovered was a beer with a tremendous amount of depth, very bitter but still decently balanced, plenty of malts to back up against the very aggressive hoppiness, but not tasting at all sweet. Someone has described it as a dark pale ale. Which I guess works, since I haven't had many very malty beers that had this kind of flavor. At the same time, there's no hint of the usual floral/citrus aromas one usually finds with heavily-hopped IPAs.

After winding my way through a few of these, I longed to try others of Stone's making. I have tried their Pale Ale: meh. IPA: meh. Ruination IPA: WOW. Cali-Belgique IPA: hmmmm...

There is a brewery here in Seattle that my wife and I have become regulars at, just as we're about to move away from that neighborhood. The Elliot Bay Brewery makes a very interesting Hop Von Boorian (a play on a local town, Burien), which is an IPA with Belgian yeast, and an even greater advantage in that it's all organic. They describe it (and I concur) as a Belgian Trippel with a Northwest load of hops. I had hopes that the Stone Cali-Belgique would be similar, but not quite. It didn't travel well, and consequently had a certain sourness to it. Hopefully that's not what they were aiming for. I have found one that I love, and I'll let you know in a later column.

Other Stone brews that I have tried: Smoked Porter: delish, like beer ham, or ham beer, or something, dark and mysterious. Russian Imperial Stout: wonderful depth, but just a little sweet for my tastes. Old Guardian Barleywine: barleywines are in a class by themselves, which is why I rarely drink them. One small one is enough to put me to sleep, and Stone doesn't sell this stuff in small. Always a lethal blow to my evening, no matter how much I've had to eat beforehand. OAKED Arrogant Bastard: all the joys of Arrogant Bastard Ale with that buttery, vanilla tinge on the edge of your taste buds that's the same oakiness you get in California Chardonnay and Oregon Pinot Gris - fantastic. Double Bastard: Too much even for me; really good, really intense, but I am a bit of a lightweight.

I can get all of these here in Seattle. I will get into the other beers that are available here and in Portland as I move through the holidays. I don't know how much beer I will be tasting that's new, but I will be photographing and posting new beers as I find them, or they find me.

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