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Unibroue: Quelque Chose

It's really "Something"

Let me set the scene.  My parents, my girlfriend, and I had just finished an extravagant English tapas-style dinner at the quaint Side Door of Five Crowns in Corona del Mar, a personal favourite[sic] bar for showing off and splurging.  We had collectively cleaned every plate ordered, and thus were feeling quite full, so when it became time to order dessert, I suggested that we split a beer to cap off our outstanding dining experience.  I eyed the Unibroue brewery name on Side Door’s always exciting and ever-changing beer list, and thought I couldn’t go wrong.  On the menu, The Quelque Chose was described as an ultra rare kriek style ale, and it was served in a 750ml bottle, perfect for splitting between 4 people.  I flagged the enthusiastic waitress, who beamed at my order, and shuffled off.

The appearance of this beer gave me a first impression of mixed feelings.  On one hand, the deep ruby red color was stunning, bringing to mind Fender Guitar’s midnight wine paint color.  Truly a gorgeous liquid.  However, there was absolutely no carbonation and zero head.  This was something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in a beer before, and I was unsure weather a completely flat beer could really excite my palate.  Of course, none of this stopped me from sticking my nose in the glass…

The aroma was completely dominated by cherry.  A little vanilla and cinnamon could be detected, but this was an overpoweringly fruity concoction, and not that fresh hoppy citrus fruit that I love to deeply inhale from above the finest of pale ales, no, this was more of a children’s medicine flavoring scent.  Even though this beer is half dark ale and half brown ale, I could make out no hint of malt on the nose at all.

On the palate, I experienced a thick, sticky, almost syrupy cherry-dominated mouthful, with very little else discernible flavor-wise.  I was quite disappointed, especially for the $21 price tag.  I was not alone in my negative review; my mother found the beer undrinkably sweet.  However, my father and girlfriend both enjoyed it enough.  They are fans of light and/or fruity beers, but unfortunately, I am in a darker, more bitter school of appreciation.  I feel like this beer was also not a good choice for me specifically, as with dinner, I enjoyed a North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, which is a bold, dark, deeply flavorful malt-stravaganza of deliciousness.  The contrast was too much for me.

On the whole, I would definitely not shell out for this particular beer again, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a cherry fetish.

I recently had the surprise pleasure of enjoying a bottle of Lagunitas Brewery’s A Little Sumpin’ Wild Ale.  This beer was one in a small selection of leftover bottles from a party that took place at my house which I, unfortunately, was unable to attend.  Presumably, these random beers belong to my father, since he hosted the party, but I have piratically commandeered them.  For posterity.  I’m happy to share my bounty with you, dear readers, by reviewing this delicious ale.

Lagunitas A Little Sumpin Wild Ale

The July seasonal ale from the Petaluma, CA brewery poured a hazy light orange color with a large, but stunning head of creamy doughy fluffiness.  This head was gorgeous, and it’s lacing doubly so.  Each sip left a perfect ring of tight off-white bubbles creating what seemed to be a ladder leading down the inside of my glass; a ladder which I was currently descending into the depths of beer heaven.

Beauuuutiful...

However, before I took my first sip and discovered the glorious retention of this ale’s suds, I made sure to waft in the aromas.  The hoppiness came through clearly, which is not surprising for a beer with 72.51 IBU’s (International Bitterness Unit; 100 is the highest, and 72.51 is very high).  Forefront on the nose were strong fruit and citrus notes, very fresh and juicy.  Time to drink…

Amazing lace, how sweet the foam...

The high alcohol content of this beer (8.85%) must have been hiding back inside the bottle, because this brew was smooth and fruity with a pleasant medium mouthfeel.  The hoppiness wasn’t at all over-powering, and blended perfectly with the fruity maltiness.  The Belgian Westamalle yeast used in this beer bestows a fantastic lasting flavor that lingers on the palate long after a lucky drinker swallows.  This was a truly enjoyable beer, and enjoy it i did!  Were I to rate this beer, it would receive an A+.  I will definitely be scouring the fridge at hi-time wine for this wild ale come July…

Allow me to set the scene: My girlfriend has travelled down to visit me in my hometown and place of residence, Newport Beach, CA, and it just so happens to be the starting weekend of Newport Beach Restaurant Week.  This means all the nice places that, under normal circumstances, are bloatedly overpriced and worth neither my hassle nor my dime, are currently offering very attractive prix-fixe menus which, for some restaurants, include 3-course lunches for only $15.  Fantastic.  I decide to try the Summer House for lunch, and I order myself a Kona Brewing Co. Fire Rock Pale Ale to wash down my 1/2 lb avocado bacon burger (which was quite average, but more on that later).

The Fire Rock poured a smooth, translucent amber color with a creamy one-finger head of small, tight bubbles which quickly dissipated and left mild lacing on the glass.  There were very refreshing forward citrus and fruit notes on the nose and I could pick out a strong distinct scent of apple which played delightfully nicely with the malty caramel flavors when I took my first sip.  Considering how hoppy the nose was, there was surprisingly little bite on the palate; it was a very smooth, cool drink and by the end I wasn’t at all fatigued.  In fact, I promptly ordered a second round!

Unfortunately, the burger was not as satisfying as the beverage that accompanied it.  The patty was under-seasoned and obtrusively thick and round.  The sandwich was not circular, but sub shaped, which doesn’t affect the taste, but I found it to be an unnecessarily silly choice.  The vegetable toppings were average, the bacon was too thick and crispy, and the avocado slipped right off of the burger when I took my first bite.  The burger just didn’t impress.  It was a delightful lunch, but all the credit goes to the brew, my dining companion, and the perfectly gorgeous Orange County weather (sorry, rest of the country…).  If you are a fan of pale ales and you see this Kona on a shelf or menu, definitely give it a try!

Greetings Mavericks, Eric here, back on the blog to bring to you the first of many (elegantly written and insightfully reviewed) beer posts. The King Maverick himself asked me to take on the daunting task of “blog beer guy” but to be honest, this is my first formal beer review, so feel very welcome to comment on this post to give feedback to me on writing, beer infos, or even your impressions of the beverage being reviewed if you’ve tried it. I’m looking to become a better writer and a better drinker, so help me out, why dontcha?! I’ve intro’d enough, here’s the review:

Last night I had the pleasure of enjoying a bottle of Deschutes Brewery: Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale. (A Northwest Pale Ale is just an IPA made with hops that are exclusively grown in the Northwest region of the USA.) I picked up a six pack of this variety at a corner liquor store in Palms, CA about 100 paces from my girlfriend’s apartment. I chose the Red Chair because it was one of the only beers on the shelves I’d never seen before (I go to this liquor store to get beer OFTEN).

Deschutes is a well known and well loved craft brewer based in Bend, OR, a west coast haven of quality beer, and I’ve tried and enjoyed many of their varieties, but this one had escaped me previously because it’s seasonal and is only available January through April. I am generally a fan of darker, more full flavored beers, and I LOVE good IPA’s, so I was immediately very excited for this IPA and my expectations became very high.

The Red Chair poured a beautiful amber color with mild carbonation and a creamy half-inch head of fine, but persistent bubbles. It smelled incredible with heavy citrus on the nose and a good strong hoppy bite in the aroma. I proceeded to dig right in.

My first impression was that of a simple hop-fest and felt the bitterness push to the front of my palate, but a few sips later, the 7 different malts started to shine and the complexity of this beer unfolded. There were hints of caramel and pine from the malts and the citrus I smelled on the nose from the hops was also present in the mouth of this ale. I was very impressed with the Red Chair, it’s extremely drinkable, in fact it may be one of the most balanced and enjoyable IPA’s I’ve had that didn’t accomplish this goal by backing off on the hoppiness.

The head of this beer had excellent retention and there was beautiful lacing down the entire length of the glass; I enjoyed the smell, taste, and sight of this beer down to the last sip. I quickly cracked open a second bottle, and then a third…

It was a rough day.  I was completely bored at work, I hadn’t slept at all well, and my chronic back pain was ablaze with a fury not unlike one could imagine a rhinoceros experiences when he wakes to find the stock market has tanked and his entire 401(k) has just vanished into a puff of putrid fart fumes.  Yes, readers, that morning I was hurting, and there were two things that it was entirely necessary for me to get on my lunch break, each of which, ideally, would make me feel better in its own way: a professional deep-tissue massage, and a juicy delicious bacon and avocado hamburger with crisp golden french fries and a ice cold root beer.

Luckily, in Costa Mesa near my work, just behind the Denny’s at Red Hill and Bristol, there happens to be a small (and as it turned out, particularly mediocre) massage parlor.  And even more fortunately, just across the street there was a quaint little spot called Bill’s Burgers which appeared to be just what this hungry guy was seeking.

A message, a message from the lord! God be praised!

I walked in to find a large movie-theater-billboard-style menu populated with classic American fast-food cuisine and a solid set of options for Mexican dining, if one were inclined to order such rubbish fare (I was in burger mode).  I found it very interesting that there was no Greek — or Mediterranean cuisine of any kind — on the menu, and yet, the cups were handsomely adorned with coliseums and statues of discvs [sic] throwers.  Interesting…

The woman at the register was a little short with me at first, but when I showed that i was friendly and smiley and asked questions about whether I could get bacon AND avocado on my burger, and how much would it cost please, she actually turned out to be quite friendly and rang my burger up in such a manner that it came out to cost some 80 cents cheaper than had she rung it up the other way.  I tipped her well (total out-of-pocket being $10) and took my unique order number placard to a table in the restaurant dining area — which was about as close to Coco’s decor as I could imagine any other restaurant being, lawsuit-free — and began sipping at my boiled sassafras beverage.

McDaphne's Famous Lamburgers?

I took a beat to scan the room and observe my fellow diners.  I was pleased to find that Bill’s had a very eclectic clientele, ranging from skateboard-wielding high-school hipsters (no doubt grabbing lunch at a less pricey alternative to the dining options at the nearby “trendsetter” breeding ground, The Lab) to kind-eyed senior citizens enjoying an old local Costa Mesa favorite.  Despite their stark differences, these people all seemed pleased to be where they were, and as such, my expectations simmered.  I felt at peace with my new by-proximity friendships, and my nerves calmed as the hour of be-burger-ment drew near.

Then it came. Visual first impression: ‘OK, this could be good!’  Oral first impression: ‘OK… this could be better…’ This burger was not great.  Everything about it seemed to fall just a little short of good-enough, much like every Adam Sandler movie since The Wedding Singer (Punch Drunk Love exempt).  The patty was too small and thin for the bun and lacked flavor or spice of any kind.  There was not nearly enough tomato, though the tomato was fresh, and the iceberg lettuce was standard and boring.  The bacon was too crispy and flavorless, and the spread was Thousand Island dressing.  This burger’s not winning any originality awards, not that I was expecting it to.

The one ingredient that Bill* seemed to actually care about was the avocado, and apparently, in Bill’s twisted burger brain, it’s totally cool to compensate for all shitty other ingredients by stuffing in way way way too much avocado, thus bringing “balance” to the burger.  I’m pretty sure there was an entire avocado on my burger.  The poor sandwich was swamped, and even it if wasn’t, it just wouldn’t hold up to any of the burger sensations I’ve experienced up in Los Angeles.  Fortunately for your blogging friend here, there was something else on the plate.  The fries were actually were actually not bad, though they were not anything particularly exciting.  They were just done right.  The root beer was good too.

'Avocado volume is inversely proportional to overall burger crappiness!' - Bill
'Nope.' - Eric

All in all, it was a pretty disappointing lunch hour, but I’m glad to say that we all learned a valuable lesson here: Don’t put pantheons and olympians on your cups if you want people to think you sell a good hamburger, because you don’t.  Especially if you’re Bill’s Burgers.

*There wasn’t any person Bill that I actually saw, I’m anthropomorphizing the establishment.

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