Girls like beer. Maybe not all girls, but a lot of us. Enough of us, in fact, that it shouldn't come as a suprise to find out we do. So I was shocked when one of my usually-enlightened colleagues seemed surprised that I showed up to this week's staff beer tasting, and eagerly at that. For me there is only one caveat: the beer has to be good.
Fortunately for me, we've never had more good beer at K&L than we do now. Our beer buyer Bryan Brick and his liasions - Steve Greer in Hollywood and Mike Barber in San Francisco - are doing an incredible job stocking our shelves full of delicious and even thought-provoking beers from the US and around the world. We've got "session" beers and age-worthy beers and sour beers that beg for a spicy, salty sausage like the kind at Wurstküche here in L.A. or at Suppenküche in San Francisco.
Anyway, we tasted through about 20 beers in Hollywood this week, and I really liked about half of them. That doesn't mean the other half weren't good, they just weren't my style. I prefer dark beers - porters and stouts - Trappist ales, Saisons and sour beers. I am generally NOT into West Coast uber-hoppy beers (or any uber-hoppy beers for that matter); they make me fall asleep. That said, here are my favorites from our tasting:
2009 AleSmith "Decadence" Dunkel Weizenbock, California (750ml $11.99) This is AleSmith's anniversary brew, a rich, dark wheat beer with a really creamy palate and a banana-y nose with a graham cracker counterpoint. It was a little sweet and fruity, but with a good salty pretzel or one of Rockenwagner bakery's pretzel rolls it would be sublime.
Brouwerj De Ranke "HOP Flower Power" Belgian Pale Ale, Belgium (750ml $15.99) So there always has to be an exception that disproves the rule. This Belgian beer may have HOP in its name, but it's remarkably balanced and that's what I liked most about it (that and Flower Power used to be my nickname in college). The nose was quite pretty here, with citrus and flower aromas, and it had nice weight, bitterness and crispness on the palate with a hint of minerals.
Dogfish Head "Festina Peche" Berliner Weisee, Delaware (12oz $2.49) Delaware is one of those states that you don't hear much about, but man do they make some good beer. This low-alcohol peach beer isn't the sweet, sticky, girly drink you might imagine, but instead something very sour and lactic. I imagined sipping it on a very hot day with homemade sausages on the grill.
HaandBryggeriet "Dark Force" Double Extreme Imperial Wheat Stout, Norway (500ml $8.99) At 9% ABV and full of letters you ordinarly wouldn't see together, I strongly advise against asking for this or trying to spell it after you drink it. Just grunt and point. This beer smells like unbaked pumpernickel bread - with distinctive molasses and coffee bitterness - rounded out by bacon and chocolate notes. It's surprising crisp on the palate and goes down easier than you might expect.
Isle of Skye Brewery "Black Cuillin" Scotch Ale, Scotland (500ml $6.49) This is the second Scotch-style beer we tried, and I lreally liked them both. It drank like a light-bodied stout, perfect for when you're craving a heartier beer on a hot day. Mint, tamarind, cocoa and anise on the nose, with a smooth and toasty palate girded by faboulsly salty bacon flavors. Yum.
Oskar Blues "Old Chub" Scottish Ale, Colorado (12oz $1.66) I really have to give props to the folks at Oskar Blues, time and again they prove that canned beer can be good. This Scottish Ale is similar to the Isle of Sky Scotch Ale, though a little lighter in chararcter with a hint of carob and caramel.
Russian River Brewing Company "Supplication" Brown Ale Aged in Oak with Cherries Added, California (375ml $10.99) I've been a fan of RRBC beers since my college days at Sonoma State, and honestly I think their beers just keep getting better. This is super sour, like fermented sour cherry juice, and probably not for everyone. But I thought it was well-balanced and just needed something fatty and slightly salty to go with it. I would love a glass with a pork terrine.
Valley Brewing Company "Decadent Evil" Belgian Style Golden Ale, California (22oz $6.49) Prior to trying this beer my only experience with Stockton, where its from, was on a road trip in college. Needless to say, this beer is better than my foggy memory. Its malty nose has notes of citrus and banana that carry over to the palate. Its creamy middle and slightly sweet finish made me think of Gewürztraminer, which made me think that this beer would be really awesome with some spicy Thai or Vietnamese food.
Valley Brewing Company IPA, California (22oz $5.99) Did I mention that I don't like hoppy beers? That usually means that I don't like IPAs, but I liked this one. Full of peach, melon and Cara Cara orange aromas, this beer tastes like tangerines and nectarines, witha sour note from pineapple and a mild hop bitterness. The 22oz bottle is mighty dangerous considering how well this drinks.