36) Schlafly American Pale Ale

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2011 by mentelope

Sometimes you find a friend who reaches out and touches your heart. Sometimes you find a friend who ships you beer. Luckily, I have the beer shipping kind of friend in Paul Hjorten. Paul was traveling for work recently, and stumbled across the Schlafly (How cool is that? They have a guy in a Utilikilt on their site!) brewery in St Louis. (Actually, I imagine the stumbling came later…) He was quite impressed with their beer. He sent me a photo of their fermenting tanks via a text message, but I am not clever enough to get that image into this post. That was not good enough, though. He then proceeded to have a six pack of Schlafly American Pale Ale shipped directly to my house. I then began to receive enigmatic text messages (Paul likes to text) about ‘something’ coming from St Louis. Well, sadly, the first shipment was damaged in shipping. I am imagining a UPS driver ‘accidentally’ dropping the package and feeling obliged to test each bottle for damage by opening and emptying same. After finishing his route, to be sure. Anyway, I was on my way home last Friday night, thinking about the beers I have in my beer fridge and lamenting that I was pretty sure there were no IPAs in there. Not that I would be left high and dry, mind you, but I was in the mood for an IPA. Within moments of getting home, my wife informed me that I had received a sixer of beer from St Louis, and it was chilling in the fridge right then! Sweet! I cracked one right away and enjoyed it thoroughly with a delicious home-cooked dinner. It is a very nice, well-balanced beer. Allow me to elaborate.

The first hint of aroma I got from this APA was citrusy hops, followed closely by a nice malt profile. The malts were restrained, but noticeable, with grainy and caramel notes and a hint of biscuit. The hops were fairly bold, starting out citrusy and then going to a floral and herbal finish. There was a clear smell of fruitiness, not really strong, but noticeable. I kind of wished the aroma was a little stronger, being dry-hopped and all, but I probably should have been more patient and let the beer warm up a little longer out of the fridge. I rated the aroma at 9 of 12.

Schlafly American Pale Ale

The appearance of this beer is beautiful. It is a strong golden color, with a beautiful, long-lasting head that leaves very nice lace. The head is a smooth, very fine bubbled ivory with nice flavor. I always figure if a beer has good flavor in the foam, it will have great flavor in the beer. I have never seen this to fail. Try it if you don’t believe me. I dare you. Anyway, I wish the form let me score more than three for appearance. I gave this beer 3+ of 3.

With my first sip of this 5.9% beer I noticed a very nice balance between hops and malts, with the hops coming out on top, but not pounding the malts to smithereens. The malt flavor held up with nice grainy, caramel and biscuit notes. The hops ran around with more of the citrus, at first, then floral and herbal tastes that were apparent in the aroma, with the fruitiness coming in a little stronger. It started off with a fairly bitter hoppiness, settling to a smoothness of malt, for a fairly balanced, but slightly more hoppy flavor. Very nice. I gave the flavor 17 of 20.

It has a fairly big body for an APA, coating the mouth nicely. The carbonation is low to middling, with very fine bubbles, almost like champagne bubbles. The alcohol warmth is there, but not at all overpowering and the creaminess is reminiscent of a nice silky stout. I gave the mouthfeel 5 of 5.

My overall impression is that this is a delicious beer, highly accurate to the APA style as defined by the BJCP that I would happily recommend to anyone seeking a refreshing pale ale. I gave the overall impression 10 of 10 for a total score of 44 of 50. That score is the highest in the ‘Excellent’ range, and if the + I put on the appearance counted for points it would be ‘Outstanding.’

If you can find a Schlafly APA around, grab it up and give it a try. If you can’t, well, I guess you either gotta fly to St Louis or start hanging out with Paul and cross your fingers. Hey – it worked for me.


35) Maritime Pacific Jolly Roger Christmas Ale

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 by mentelope

I had intended to rate several Christmas Ales or Winter Ales or beers along those lines before Christmas. My hope was to provide a list of tasty winter seasonals to help folks pick out a fine beer for all those Christmas parties. Well, I definitely had fine beers at all the Christmas parties I went to, but going to all those parties kept me from blogging, so I fell waaaaaay behind. I decided since I still have quite a few seasonal brews in the fridge, I could still rate them, and you could still go out and get them and try them. So here goes. Tonight I am drinking a Maritime Pacific Jolly Roger Christmas Ale. I knew I liked this beer when I bought it, as it has been a wintertime favorite of mine for quite a while. I even have the t-shirt! Jolly Roger is a very tasty brew. I have liked every beer I have tried from Maritime Pacific. They also have a very cool piratey-themed taproom located kinda between Ballard and Fremont, in Seattle. You really oughta go and check it out. They have an appetizer there called Beer Batter Bacon. We saw that on the menu and absolutely HAD TO try it. It was just like it sounds – individual slices of bacon, battered and fried and brought out stacked like Lincoln Logs. It was awesome! It is definitely one of those things you really only should eat once in a while. It kind of makes me glad we don’t live too close to Maritime Pacific, cuz I could find lots of excuses to swing by and grab some fried bacon and beer! Anyway – on to the Jolly Roger Christmas Ale. I am not entirely sure how to rate this one, as it does not seem to conform to directly the BJCP Christmas Ale description, and it is not listed on the Maritime Pacific website, and there is no description of the beer on the label. So I guess I’ll just say what I think of it.


Maritime Pacific Jolly Roger Christmas Ale

The malt was the first thing I smelled. It is fairly rich, with caramel and dark fruit tones. The hops are a bit subtle and a little floral and fruity to my nose. Which is good. Esters and phenols were both low to none, but there is a dark fruit or dried fruit flavor in there. Mostly rich maltiness, though. Moderate alcohol aroma and plenty of sweetness from those malts. I gave the aroma 10 of 12.


It is a fairly dark amber beer, very clear, with a nice, fine-bubbled beige head that lasted well into the pint. Some very nice lacing, as well. I gave the appearance 3 of 3.

As with the aroma, this beer is malt forward as they say, leading off with a nice rich, sweet caramelly maltiness with that dark fruit flavor. Mmmmmm! The hops were still way in the back seat, being a little fruity and floral and just bitter enough to keep the beer from becoming cloying. The balance, as you may have already guessed is fairly malty. I gave the flavor 16 of 20.

The mouthfeel of this beer is very nice! A medium high body with fairly low carbonation and plenty of warmth and creaminess and no astringency. It is silky and delicious, with a slightly sweet finish. I gave that a 5 of 5.

My overall impression of this beer is that I really like it. It is very tasty, yet not so potent that you can only drink one. It is a great wintertime session beer. Technical merit is high, stylistic accuracy – well, I dunno, but I like it! I am rating this one at 9 of 10 for a total of 43 of 50, putting it smack in the ‘Excellent’ range.

Bottom line is, you need to try this one. My bet is it will become a winter favorite for you, too. And if you go to the Jolly Roger taproom, tell ’em Joe sent you. That oughta puzzle them.

34) Full Sail Wassail

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2010 by mentelope

Oh for the sweet days of yore! Back when wassailing was a firm Yuletide tradition, and one could  join with friends to go from house to house throughout the neighborhood, caroling and enjoying warm drinks with the locals.  Wassail is derived from an Old English word for good health. There was a ritual blessing of apple trees to assure good harvests and plentiful hard cider. It then became common jargon for a spiced drink of cider or wine, usually served heated, or spiced cold beer (the definitions seem to vary widely.)  Okay, so the bottom line is it was a traditional party time with the neighbors. So many people hardly even know their neighbors these days. I really think we would all benefit from annual wassailing. Here is a link to a carol you might know – Here We Come a Wassailing. I looked for wassail in the BJCP Guidelines, and it had no actual Wassail listing, so I am referring to Christmas beers. They are pretty loosely defined, so I suppose the evaluation will be fairly subjective.

I did not find the aroma of the Full Sail Wassail to be  particularly striking. It has fairly rich malt nose, with grain and bread notes. The hops are a little citrusy, but not very strong. There was also a little fruity, maybe dark fruit aroma to the esters.The alcohol aroma was noticeable, as was a nice sweetness. I gave the aroma 8 of 12.

The beer is very clear, with a nice dark amber color and a beige head. The head was fine and smooth, but not terribly lofty or long-lived, although it did lace fairly well. I gave the appearance 2 of 3.

Full Sail Wassail

The flavor started off with a nice malt profile, again fairly rich, grainy and bready. The hop flavor is a bit more pronounced than the aroma, nicely bittering the malts and tasting a little herbal. The esters were less developed, slightly fruity. The balance was rather hoppy and built up bitterness as I drank the beer, but it was not overwhelming. I kept expecting some kind of herb or spice to sneak up on me, but it never did. I looked at the description of the beer on Full Sail’s site and they make no mention at all of any spice or herb in the beer. Now, I am of the opinion that if you call a beer Wassail, it should have some spice to it. I fully expected some herbal spicy flavors like clove or cinnamon or a hint of nutmeg to be in this beer. Not a lot, not bashing me over the head, but some. There were none. I must say I was a little disappointed. I gave the flavor 13 of 20.

This is a moderately bodied beer with low to moderate carbonation and a nice warmth, low to moderate creaminess. The finish was medium-dry. I gave the mouthfeel 4 of 5.

It is pretty hard to rate stylistic accuracy when a beer is so loosely defined. I would say that as a beer, the technical merit is excellent, but as a”Wassail” the technical merit is a little lacking. I enjoyed the beer, but felt slighted by the Wassail label. I gave the overall impression 6 of 10, for a total score of 33 of 50, which is n the ‘Very Good’ range.

I don’t mean to harp on this, but in my opinion this beer should not be called Wassail. It is a good beer, and had it been labelled as some kind of hoppy ale, I would have scored it much higher. As is almost always the case, I got to drink a fine beer. I recommend Full Sail Wassail, – it is eminently drinkable – but be aware that you are not getting what I would call a “Christmas Beer” or a spiced beer at all.

33) Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 4, 2010 by mentelope

So Lori and I were at Whole foods the other day because Lori needed to get some “hippie stuff”, and Whole Foods has lots of that. I like the store because they have a great beer section. They usually have more variety and more specialty beers than any other grocery store I know of. Lori likes me to try crazy new beers, so whenever we go there she encourages me to splurge a little. I know, a great wife, huh? So we are looking at all these killer beers, trying to decide, cuz I just cannot afford to get them all, and my fridge is pretty full, when Lori points out Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout. Well, it was a done deal right then. I am a sucker for oatmeal stouts, well, okay, stouts in general, and I love the cool names brewers come up with. How can you beat Velvet Merlin? I actually saw people look at it and not buy some. I tell ya, there’s just no explaining some folks. So this bottle of Velvet Merlin has been patiently waiting in my fridge for its day to come, and now the wait is now over.

Velvet Merlin has a rich, warm malt profile that is sweet and roasty with dark caramel, chocolate and coffee scents. The hops are quite understated and seemed a little earthy to my nose. There were no esters and phenols were very low, maybe a little stone fruit or dried fruit aroma in there. Sweetness was medium-high and I believe I could smell oatmeal. Nice. I gave it 11 of 12.

Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout

No doubt about it, this is a dark beer. The color is dark brown to black. Even under direct light, it was pretty dark brown, almost opaque. The head was a little smaller than I was hoping for, but it was definitely persistent. It was a nice tan color, composed of fine bubbles that left lacing all the way to the bottom of the glass. I gave the appearance 2.5 of 3.

Roasty-toasty maltiness is what I got from the first sip. Lots of coffee-like flavor with that dark, dried fruit flavor sneaking in as well. The hops, again, were subdued. Just enough to bitter the beer nicely, then stepping back to let you enjoy all those grain flavors, malt, oats, dark roast, yum. The balance was just on the malty side of even. I gave the flavor 17 of 20.

This is a rich, smooth, very creamy beer with a big, silky mouthfeel that coats your mouth in stout-y goodness. Which is to say I really like it. The carbonation is medium-low and there is a very pleasant warmth which seemed maybe a little more than I would expect from a 5.5% beer. The finish is fairly dry, with a little bitterness building up as you go. I would say 5 of 5 for mouthfeel.

Overall, I would say the technical merit and stylistic accuracy are very high. For an overall impression I gave it 9 of 10, for a total score of 44.5 of 50, which puts it just .5 points short of ‘Outstanding’, but in the very top rank of ‘Excellent’ which means it is no slouch. I almost feel guilty having it .5 short of outstanding, but the score is what I wrote when I tasted it, so there it stays.

Even if you are not a sucker for oatmeal stouts or clever names or cool labels, you really should give Velvet Merlin a try. If you are into big, tasty, dark beers, this is right on the mark, and if you are not so sure about the big darks, Velvet Merlin might be the one to draw you in and make you crave the darkness like I do. And if you just can’t do that, then just get anything from Firestone, because they always make top-notch beers.

Halloween Party

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by mentelope

A few posts back I said I would tell more about our Halloween party, so now I feel obliged to follow through.

Lori and I have been hosting annual Halloween parties for several years now, and they get more elaborate every time. We have several friends who attend year after year and have told us they look forward to this party way in advance. It is cool to have the rep as throwing the killer Halloween bash, but it is also a bit of pressure to make each year a little better.

Basement last year

Last year, our band, The Basementeurs, was just getting going and our first ‘gig’ was playing in our basement at the party.That made the party a bit more of an undertaking. We played 10 songs, and it was a smash hit! In fact, we decided to keep it rolling and we have played in local pub twice since then, as well as being hired for a private party. Watch for us on Saturday Night Live. (Don’t hold yer breath.)

Since it went over so well last year, we decided this year we should remodel the basement to make it the ultimate jamming/party room. This entailed tearing out walls, moving the water heater, rewiring the lights and painting and blahblahblah. We talked about it for 11 months, then cranked it all out in one month, with many sweaty nights of labor. Now the basement looks really cool, and I am working on installing a bar and hopefully taps and a kegging system. Woohoo!

Basement this year

One big improvement over the last five years has been plenty of tasty homebrew to share with our guests. I usually brew two batches just for the party, and this year was no exception. I made two batches, one of Elixir Amber Ale, which is a modified Mac & Jack’s clone, and one of Blackheart, which was a basic Irish Red Ale that I modified with some Black Patent malt to make the beer black and just a little roasty. I also served some Jaggery IPA, some Love Buzz Porter and some Homegrown Hard Cider. All were sucked up with gusto by our beer-loving friends.

Hop Daddy line-up for Halloween 2010

So there is your update, and next post we will talk beer beer beer.

32) Maui Brewing Company CoCoNut Porter

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by mentelope

Lori and I stumbled upon Maui Brewing Company while on vacation on Maui a few years ago. We were staying at a nice little beachside condo in a town called Kahana, and right across the street was a group of shops and restaurants. As soon as we entered the lot, looking for a place to grab some dinner, I noticed the Maui Brewing Company sign, and our decision was made. The pub was cozy and a little rustic, the food was very good and we fell in love with the beers.

Near the Nakalele blowhole

One that we both really liked was the CoCoNut Porter. Lori has been after me to brew a Coconut Porter since then. I will, I will.  Looking on their site now, I do not see a listing for that pub we went to. It looks like now they are only  in Lahaina. Too bad, I liked that pub. So I was in my favorite beer shop recently – you guessed it, The Beer Authority – and they had a few beers from Maui Brewing. f course I grabbed a fistful of ’em. I ended up drinking most of them up, but managed to save a CoCoNut Porter for rating, so here goes.

It poured nice and dark with a beautiful head, and the aroma brought me right back to the island. It had a definite coconut smell which was nice, but not so strong as to push the malts into the backseat. There were nice caramel and bread aromas, with that roasty-toastiness I love about dark beers. Esters and phenols were nowhere to be found, but a mellow sweetness and hint of alcohol finished thef bouquet nicely.  gave the aroma 11 of 12.

The beer is a dark brown, almost black, with a little ruby color evident in bright direct light. The head was huge, tan and persistent, with small bubbles leaving a very nice lacing to the end of the glass. I rated the appearance at 3 of 3.

The coconut flavor is prominent, but not overpowering. There is a clear maltiness, with caramelly bread and roasty toasty darkness in abundance. The hops are very faint, maybe just a little earthy, with very little bitterness. There is a subtle alcohol flavor, smooth and mellow. The finish was malty, and if I had to say anything critical, I would say this beer might be a touch too sweet, even for a porter. But maybe not for a coconut porter.I gave the flavor 16 of 20.

Maui Brewing Company's CoCoNut Porter

The beer has a very nice, full body, with the moderate carbonation you might expect from a porter. A moderate alcohol warmth from the 5.7% ABV and a wonderful lasting creaminess with a sweet finish earned it 4 of 5 for mouthfeel.

I referred to the BJCP Brown Porter style guidelines for this beer, and I would say it is highly accurate to the style (plus coconut) with excellent technical merit. I put the overall impression score at 8 of 10, for a total score of 42 of 50, which puts CoCoNut Porter in the ‘Excellent’ range.

So, if you are on Maui, make sure to visit Maui Brewing. And if you are in Hawaii, or in your local beer shop, make sure to look for Maui Brewing CoCoNut Porter and all their other beers. If you don’t see any, ask for it, so the demand is noted, cuz you just gotta try this beer!

Beer Taster Wanted

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 5, 2010 by mentelope

Well, that oughta get some attention.

But really, I am thinking I want someone to rate my homebrews. I have frequently thought of posting ratings of my own brews on the blog, but it seems it would hardly come across as impartial feedback. Therefore, I am seriously considering asking someone to try my beers and rate them as I do on my blog. Now, I am not just looking for somebody who is willing to drink free beer. Those guys are easy to find. I had about 70 or 80 of them at my house last weekend. Now that all the repairs are complete, I thought a more cerebral approach might be in order.

Irish Red Ale with a Blackheart

So what I am looking for is someone local (no shipping), who is fairly serious about beer and has some knowledge about it. Someone who appreciates craft beers and homebrews. Someone who is willing to use the BJCP score sheet and refer to the BJCP site and reference their information on different styles of beer, and use that information to rate my beer. Since many of my beers are a little off the normal styles, they would have to be able to ad lib a little. I would want them to be accountable and get the info back to me promptly. Basically, try the beer, then give me honest, concise feedback on a timely basis. It aint that hard, and I feel pretty confident that the beer aint so bad either.

So if this sounds interesting to you, send a comment, and we can chat about it.