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L S B 2 BI have to accept that the Ducks can’t win every night; for a while they looked unbeatable at home. A team that was rough to play against in their own building has just suffered its fourth loss in five games at the Honda Center. While we aren’t talking about a total collapse (the Anaheim Ducks still hold down first place in the NHL!!!), it’s something I’ve grown unfamiliar with, but luckily, I was able to wash down that sinking feeling of losing to Columbus with one of the most interesting beers of my life.

I generally dedicate these posts to extolling wines, but Logsdon’s Seizoen Bretta reminded me that beer could also be quite venerable. The Hood River, Oregon natives craft serious Farmhouse Ales, working with organic ingredients and foundation native yeasts to produce daedal ales. Monday night the Ducks lethargic play took a backseat to a rustic and inspiring seven-fifty of Seizoen.

Unfiltered and hazy, showing an incandescent orange in the glass with animated carbonation that brought out an intense aroma of pineapple juice, bandage (caused by the Brettanoymces and the namesake of the beer), hay and citrus blossom.

It tasted of bitter lemon and apple cider, and even apricot appeared with overtones of leather and earthier flavors sounding deeply. It was balanced, complex and possessed excellent acidity to leave a refreshing finish. I was in a state of beer awe.

Dismayed by watching the Ducks drop another game, but captivated by the waves of flavor and the strong finish of Seizoen, here’s hoping for a better days to come for my favorite hockey team—I cannot ask for any more of Logsdon’s outstanding Seizoen Bretta ale.

Mik MaleWinter in the summertime? Not quite, and certainly not weather-wise, but in terms of beverages, I subscribe to the same philosophy that sees ice cream to be enjoyed anytime, especially a cold-churned double scoop in winter’s harrowing chill, or a king-size bowl of hot ramen that’s fit for summer’s dog days… I couldn’t resist my latest beer purchase even if it were crafted for another season.

Imported from Denmark, Mikkeller’s beers have always been fascinating to me—his story is unique and his custom-built beers appeal to the wine lover inside me. I picked up a Ris a la M’ale—a three-seventy-five that read more like a Northern European dessert than a traditional fruit-laced ale. Belgian ales have softened the American palate for this kind of exploration.

Resisting my initial temptation to use wine glasses as makeshift vessels, the fiery red contents were split into beer mugs. Putting my nose near dunking-close to the lacy head, I picked out the adjunct ingredients that would make a tasty and tart kerse floppen (Dutch cherry tart), garnished with a little toasted almond. It only got better once sipped; flavors were forward in the mouth, with an exact amount of sweetness brushing against the tang that all in all provided added depth in its doughy build, and helped transform the beer into a balanced liquid dessert.

The playfulness of ingredients—ale brewed with cherries, almonds and vanilla, among other spices—is consistent with this brewer’s style. While not all his concoctions are a hit with my taste buds, the Ris a la M’ale definitely scored major points as a finish to a nice dinner with my family.

RoseeAn illustrious tropical bloomer, Hibiscus flowers can be showstoppers. Their gorgeous colored petals however are for more than marveling over; used for paper, teas, medicine and, as I learned last week, to lend amazing flavor to beer.

I uncrowned a bottle of Rosée d’Hibiscus from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel, pouring out a beautiful glass of fluorescent amber ale. Its floral upbringing was evident immediately on the perfume, with soft aromas of fresh picked flower petals in a game of She loves me… she loves me not, fruit and minerals wrapping up the bouquet. It was dry on the palate and homed in with wine-like intensity when it came to the round mouth-feel and persistent flavor profile dripping of red berries, spice, flowers and fresh bread—bringing me back to Beerlandia.

This beer walked a fine line, appealing to all my wine-liking sensibilities but subtly reminding me that I was enjoying ale. The Rosée d’Hibiscus was unlike any beer that I’ve ever tasted, with its fruit-and-flower-forward nature and dry, long finish that should seduce most wine drinkers. A strongly recommended buy for the summertime!

Blanche du

A surfeit of microbreweries in Southern California would be an easy explanation for my developing interest in beer, but that would be incorrect. Not excited by the hopped out IPA’s that have seen many of my peers swooning over San Diego, rather a wine drinker first, I look to the Old World (Northern European style) to fill my glass.

One of the first beers that made me a convert was a Belgian white beer—never mind the producer, the recipe leans heavily on wheat enhanced by liberal dashes of coriander with bitter orange peel—the main seasonings—producing a crisp and harmonious beverage. Enticing from the first sip.

That style has been mimicked with great success and I don’t have to leave North America to find a great Continental domestic example, like the bottle of Blanche du Paradis that I recently enjoyed from Dieu Du Ciel Brewery in Quebec.

Tradition-minded and balanced from the start, the white beer showed lovely carbonation and a deep golden hue.  With an expressive perfume that flashed a peel’s worth of citrus, Indian spice and a slice of ontbijtkoek (breakfast cake), producing an aroma worth eating! Medium-bodied but full in character on the tongue, the blanche flaunted an ethereal medium-plus finish of orange zest, toasted cereal, delicate spice and baked bread.

Impressive! From a wine buyer’s perch this is relatively inexpensive (four dollars). No matter the price, I can confidently say is that it was satisfying and worth tasting again.

Stout SignNo longer able to ignore Stout, with a beer-thirst peaking and word-of-mouth about the restaurant itself spreading like a SoCal wildfire whipped by Santa Anas, there was more than enough reason to dine out at the burger and beer purveyor. Standing guard on the corner of Cahuenga Boulevard, sandwiched by Hollywood and Sunset, Stout’s original location was the it-spot for lunch.

My friend and I were seated at the last remaining table. Stout was similar to Little Bear in that it was a Beer-friendly environment; that didn’t stop me from looking to see what wines had been relegated to the back page. (Rant warning)*

Skirting the wine, we made our tap selections on the first go with our server. Upon her return, two beers-a-tray, we had decided on the Stout and Morning After burgers with a side of zucchini fries.

StoutNot too many sips into the Mikkeller, two orbicular sandwiches touched down with a share bowl of fried zucchini dividing our table. We took a respectful look at our burgers before digging in. Wedged between the perfect semicircles that would shame mathematicians, were two candied slabs of rosemary bacon atop a blend of Alpine—Gruyere—and blue cheese, coating the grain-fed beef patty with roasted tomatoes and a daub of horseradish cream. In the best way it reminded me of a classy Sourdough Jack minus the sourdough. A perfect medium rare with a soft grind showing off a depth of smoky sweet nuance that was near great. There was something lacking, however—texture. With no snap to juxtapose against the mushy core, the complimentary flavors had no direction and ran amok. The Stout burger was solid, but frustratingly, had the potential to be a lot more. The fried zucchini were an excellent accompaniment, with a creamy green core that was a sight to see, but like anything fried, a little went a long way.

In need of a digestif after the heavy midday affair, only our wallets felt lighter after leaving the beer-first establishment. Attentive service, lively crowd and stellar beer list staved off an average review, as Stout obviously excels in certain aspects. Regarding balance, there’s still a ways to go.

*If you have a top-notch wine list, beer and sake should be integrated seamlessly and the same goes for an expertly crafted beer list. Why does the imagination stop when wine is involved? It’s not okay. Who would want to have a Westmalle Dubbel or Achel Bruin at some joint, and then order a plonk Chardonnay for their girlfriend—and not feel a pang of conscience about it? Craft begets craft! 

From an exceptional California cheeseburger experience on the shores of Jalama Beach, I thought to keep my momentum going for my next Big City burger foray. A newer eatery piqued my interest after reading a technical and favorable review of their burgers in the LA Times. Setting a good time with a friend, both of us set off to check out the neighborhood gem, visions of Jalama still swirling. Friday night came and a quick drive-by revealed a gastropub with little wiggle room, diners queuing up around the corner for their turn at the vaunted comfort foods. We wanted no part of the wait and scrambled to find an alternative on the Westside—arriving at Steingarten LA. Karma from Jalama?

Not our first choice that evening, but it seemed like a reasonable pick for its proximity. On Pico Boulevard, across the street from Marty’s Hamburger Stand, we had located a beer-friendly establishment that served burgers. Seated immediately, we were ushered to the last table in the house. Steingarten LA was beaming with energy and big parties (six-tops and larger) spread out across the dining room… lulling us into a false sense of security. Given a minute to mull over the menus, it took little time for us to select drink and fare.

I had ordered “The Works,” which was their take on a classic California burger served with tomato, cheddar cheese, lettuce, raw onions, Thousand Island dressing over a half-pound patty of grass-fed beef that I wanted cooked medium-rare. While I was in favor of keeping it simple—or so I thought—my friend found “Golden Prize,” a burger that boasted herb roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, Brie and roasted garlic sauce, to be more in line with his palate.

The Clippers were keeping the Lakers down on the big screen; we watched a fraction of the game before the beers found the table and discussion switched to the state of the NHL. In an uncharacteristic move that augured ill, our server spilled a portion of my draft ale over the table. She apologized immediately as I wiped up the white suds that were ejected from the challis. Small annoyance for what was to come… I assured her that everything was okay, no biggie, until the… food arrived.

With her tail between her legs, our server came back, apologetically, and presented us with two cheeseburgers a la the Atkins Diet; embarrassingly enough they had run out of buns!!! In my short time (almost four years) as a burger blogger, and longer as an eater, I have never been to a restaurant that has run out of burger buns. She told us that they would compensate us for the communication breakdown between kitchen and wait staff; in the meantime we were resigned to eating with fork and knife. Life would go on. End of mishaps.

I was even willing to overlook the bun-less sandwich, going European on the first bite before it yielded… an overcooked patty. Somewhere the Burger Gods were laughing hysterically. I tried hard to find the silver lining. It couldn’t get any worse! We were given pretzel buns halfway through the meal as a consolation—a peace offering. Those were as good as useless.

I really don’t like to pan restaurants but there were too many blatant service errors to be ignored, followed by food errors. My friend liked his burger sans bun (to be fair), but wasn’t happy with the late game appearance of a pretzel bun meant to assuage our grief. And we ended up paying full price—our server forgot her earlier words. Keeping our lips sealed as we walked out the door, the night ended filled with an air of “what could have been.” If only we had waited!

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 had the rare opportunity to catch 127 Hours via Netflix and drink a beer—not my go-to beverage—not too long ago. 127 Hours is a harrowing tale of courage and the preservation of life when nature throws the unexpected wrench in the works. I sometimes wonder if I would have the strength to tourniquet myself, sever my arm and press on, but realistically, knowing that I would never be caught in that situation to begin with, at least not rock climbing by myself, it’s a thought experiment at best. Yet, when depicted on the big screen, or on the 42” inch inside my living room, it was riveting, easy to crawl inside this uncomfortable space and ride shotgun with James Franco. I am not at all versed like A.O. Scott in the art of retelling the cinematic story, so I won’t, but, I do feel obligated to share my experience of drinking a compelling Chocolate Stout by Rogue brewery during the feature.

Rogue is an award-winning microbrewery—a bigger microbrewery—situated in Oregon and responsible for crafting serious beers and spirits for a good long time. They are the same brewery responsible for my favorite ale—the Hazelnut Brown Nectar whose nuttiness and refreshingly crisp flavors have given me plenty of tasting pleasure in the past years of occasionally trying beers. I felt it would be only right to explore more offerings from this respected purveyor because they create such a diverse collection of hoppy concoctions and almost all of them are met with great appreciation from people I respect. When I wasn’t quite feeling the Cabernet Franc from Chinon, I decided it was the perfect time to open that 22-ounce Chocolate Stout and take a seat on the couch.

Watching and grimacing, as things got real in the movie I would consistently need to be weaned off the screen, averting my eyes and refreshing my palate by bathing it in the suds of the rich stout that was reminiscent of chocolate Ovaltine (or your malt beverage of choice), roasted coffee and some rolled oats. It finished semi-bitter, revealing its dark chocolate roots.

I managed to finish the bottle of beer (all 650 ml), a rare feat for me since I am often content to share a 12-ounce bottle because beer in general, is too filling. It was a sign of how agreeable this stout was on the palate and while not providing the same dynamics as the film (who knew being holed up in a crevasse in the earth could be so entertaining?), it was delicious. For this wine guy, Rogue’s Chocolate Stout was a hit!

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!

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