Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

Brewed by: Ballast Point Brewing Company
Brewery Location: San Diego, CA

Style: American IPA
ABV: 7.00%

I’ll be completely honest here: I had never even heard a whisper of the Ballast Point Brewing Company when I first noticed this beer on the shelf at my local distributor. And I spent this past summer just outside of San Diego…shame on me. After picking up a six-pack on a relative whim, I must say that I am pretty disappointed…that I didn’t get to try this beer over the summer. Big Eye, you are one hell of a good American IPA.

Upon pouring, a very rich, copper color was revealed. There was a fairly large head, and some seriously sticky lacing that hung around until my glass was empty.

Upon first smelling the Big Eye, I was immediately greeted by piney hops, and a smell of bitterness. While these smells served as the overtones for this beer, there were some serious citrus flavors going on in the background: pineapple, orange, and lemon…? There was also a bit of malt that was able to shine through as well, leaving me pretty excited to taste what I imagined to be a pretty well balanced brew.

The taste followed suit with the smell beautifully, immediately punching through with that to-be-expected hoppy bitterness. After the initial shock of the hops, the citrus makes an appearance as the main contender, complemented by an almost floral sweetness. The sweetness was almost a bit too much for me, but after a few more tastes, I concluded that the hoppy bitterness and sweetness balanced each other out very well.

Let’s be straight here: I need to stop purchasing beer from random brewing companies. I end up with a beer like the Big Eye, which I thoroughly enjoy, and then make it a personal mission to try as many of their different styles as possible. Oh wait, that’s not a bad thing? Well in that case, give the Ballast Point Big Eye a try!

Victory Golden Monkey

Brewed by: Victory Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Downingtown, PA

Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 9.50%

As I do with the majority of beers that I try, I happened to stumble across a few bottles of Golden Monkey whilst perusing through my local beer distributor. I had heard of it through several friends, but had never been presented with the opportunity to try it. As it happened, the price was right, and a 6-pack found its way home with me. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but overall, I was very content with my purchase.

Upon pouring, it was immediately understandable why this beer was named Golden Monkey. A clear, amber-golden color presented itself, with very apparent carbonation bubbles. It had a medium sized, frothy head, which hung around for a decent majority of the beer.

The first smell that I picked up on was that oh-so distinctive Belgian tripel smell. There were hints of spices, and definitely some serious citrus overtones. It was a bit difficult to really pick up on the exact fruit, but it almost smelled like a curious case of lemon meets orange. It was also fairly easy to tell that this was going to be one hell of a boozey beer, as the smell of alcohol was very apparent.

As expected, on first taste the spice and alcohol really punch through, leaving the citrus in the background. It is slightly bitter, but almost…neutral tasting? With other tripels I have tried, taste on opposite ends of the spectrum complement each other, creating an enjoyable and interesting beer. There are a lot of clashing and over the top flavors going on here, which didn’t leave me particularly impressed.

I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad beer by any means. I happily finished by 6-pack, very glad that I was finally able to try it. If someone offered me one, I’d gladly enjoy it, but I foresee myself settling on other Belgians.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Formal Update and Thanks

I started this blog not too long ago with the intentions of providing solid, well written reviews for craft and microbrewed beer. I originally intended on my target audience to be college students who are looking for something besides incredibly cheap session beer, but I have found that my audience has expanded to people from all walks of life. I am incredibly happy with this shift, because through my discussions with people through this blog, through twitter, through shopping in my local beer distributor and whilst sipping on a cold one, I have come to learn something: beer is truly a universal beverage.

I have had traffic from over 20 different countries to this blog, ranging from the USA, to Europe, to the Middle East. That amazes me, and makes me very thankful that I have the technology at hand to discuss something that I, and many others, truly enjoy. The Brew Backer Twitter account reached 1,000 followers today, also from all walks of life. I honestly did not expect to gain that many followers that quickly, and for that again, I am grateful. Here's to the next thousand.

One idea that I am thinking about implementing is having a different guest write a review each week about a beer of their choosing. This will allow for more posts, and would add different voices to the blog. Again, we all come from different places and have varying backgrounds, and it would be nice to share these voices in a unified manner about a subject that, being that you are here reading this, I assume you truly enjoy. If you would be interested in writing a review for a week, or perhaps more, please feel free to email me at!

I've truly been enjoying running this blog, and will continue to do so with my utmost dedication. Here's to good beer and good friends. Cheers, all.

Dogfish Head My Antonia

Brewed by: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Brewery Location: Milton, DE

Style: American Double/Imperial Pilsner
ABV: 7.50%

I am a big fan of a good pilsner, and as most everybody who reads this blog knows, I am a big fan of the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. I had seen the My Antonia on the shelf before, and finally decided to pick it up a few days ago, over the Sah Tea. (But let’s be honest here, I’ll probably purchase the Sah Tea tomorrow night. How can I resist?) Once again, I was nothing short of ecstatic with my purchase.

I poured into a traditional pint glass, and was greeted with a light, pale yellow, that had a bit of a cloudy appearance. The amount of lacing was pretty ridiculous; it’s safe for me to say that the My Antonia may have the stickiest lace of any beer I have tasted to date. There was a larger than average head that stuck around for the majority of the drink.

Upon first smell, I picked up on some serious hints of grass, lemon, and citrus. It smelled incredibly refreshing, and I was very happy that I was sipping it on a somewhat warm day. I also picked up the smell of piney hops, but they were more of an undertone than the easily recognizable smells, like lemon.

The taste very much complemented the smell. It has a very crisp, refreshing taste to it, accentuating the lemon, grass and hoppy flavors. Like most pilsners, it had a bit of a dry taste to it, but finished up with a little bitterness from the hops.

Not really much else to say on the My Antonia. There is nothing absolutely incredible that stands out about it, but what you are left with is one solid Pilsner. I’m starting to think Sam Calagione made a deal with the Devil…

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Brewed by: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Brewery Location: Milton, DE

Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.00%

I am a very big fan of the beer that Dogfish Head produces, and the 90 Minute IPA proved to be no different. I have to follow up that statement with another, though: this is one of the weirdest damn IPAs I have ever tasted, and it differs pretty significantly from the 60 Minute, and of course from the 120 Minute. I went it expecting a similar taste, but was actually pleasantly surprised to be tasting something completely different.

Upon first pour from the four pack I purchased, I was greeted by an attractive clear red, with hints of orange as well. It had a fairly small head, which was maintained throughout basically the entirety of the drink. Right off the bat I knew I was in store for something different.

After taking a deep smell of the brew in front of me, I was absolutely blown away by the sweetness and malt that assaulted my nose. There were hints of citrus, and definitely a hoppy smell as well. However, the uniqueness of this smell is that the roles seemed to be completely reversed. I am so used to a citrusy and piney forefront, yet here they were sitting in the background, allowing the sweet malts to dominate the smell. Different, for sure!

After sipping, that balance did not shift in the slightest. I was instantly bombarded by a very large and malty sweetness, which eventually faded a bit and let the citrus and hops make an appearance. It is slightly bitter, and just as it started, it ended with a pleasant sweetness.

This is one hell of a unique IPA, and one that I am very glad I tried. It is so different than the IPAs that I generally drink, but this one has me thinking that I should be expanding my palate a bit more to another spectrum. With the exception of the Raison D’Etra, Dogfish has a fantastic track record in my book.

Victory Hop Devil

Brewed by: Victory Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Downingtown, PA

Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.70%

As I have made painfully clear, I am an IPA drinkin’, bitterness-seeking hophead. When my local distributor started carrying Hop Devil by Victory Brewing Company, I immediately added it to my list of beer to purchase in the very near future. The day finally came; I purchased a six-pack and sat down to a brew that I had been waiting to drink for a few months. If I would have know what was waiting for me, let’s just say I would have reworked that “to purchase” list and moved Victory a bit up the alphabet.

I poured into a tulip glass and was greeted by a clear and dark amber appearance. There were a significant amount of carbonation bubbles, which excited me, because hell, this beer just looked crisp. There was a significantly larger than usual head which hung around for a while, only increasing an already pleasant appearance.

Like several other IPAs I have reviewed, the most dominant smells were citrus and hops. The citrus was predominantly grapefruit, with perhaps a hint of orange. The hoppy smell was almost spicy, which in combination with the appearance, only backed up my theory that this guy was going to be crisp.

Upon first sip, I could tell that my suspicions were going to be confirmed. I immediately noticed a very hoppy flavor, which had an incredibly piney forefront. What was most interesting about the taste is that while it was very hoppy, it wasn’t overly bitter in the slightest. The grapefruit was still able to shine through, which complemented the pine flavor rather nicely. Also interesting, the Hop Devil has some malt tones in there as well, which made for a very unique experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute sucker for an IPA that is bitter from start to finish, but wow this was a very good beer. The fact that the malt, hops and citrus were able to punch through to my palate is sign of fantastic brew craftsmanship. I could drink this on a very regular basis and never look back. Great brew, Victory.

Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball

Brewed by: Lagunitas Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Petaluma, CA

Style: American Ale
ABV: 9.00%

I haven’t had much experience with the Lagunitas Brewing Company, and I have to admit that I bought the Hairy Eyeball on a complete whim. I had only had their IPA before this, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with that was effectively a completely random purchase.

Per usual, I poured into a traditional pint glass and was a bit blown away by the color that made an appearance. A deep brown, with a hazy red tint, greeted me. This bad boy is dark, and had about a half-inch head that displaced rather quickly.

Upon first smell, it was apparent that the Hairy Eyeball definitely had an alcoholic bite to it. It smelled a bit boozy, with hints of deeper fruits, like grape and plum. There are also some deep undertones of coffee and malt, but they laid in the background and really let the dark fruits shine through.

The taste followed suit with the smell perfectly, which in this case was a very good thing. The fruits were the forefront players, and left a pleasant aftertaste. There were some malt and coffee traces, but the most apparent tastes were definitely fruit and booze. It almost tasted like a barley wine.

Like I said, for being a completely impulse purchase, I was very happy with this beer. It’s a bit too heavy for me to designate it anything more than a once-in-a-while drink, but if I was ever presented with the opportunity to drink it again I most certainly would. If the Hairy Eyeball and the IPA are any testaments towards the quality of the Lagunitas Brewing Company, I will certainly be trying more of their brew.