Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Squirrely wrath Beer Chronicles, Part III

...and for the final post in the Beer Chronicle series, I answer the question:  Favorite breweries and brewpubs are fine, but what's in the refrigerator at the Fortress of Solitude?  In truth, since I am a brewer, there's usually not much there - and, shut up! That twelver of Stella Artois is the Redhead's, not mine.  However, given the demands of work, travel, and the usual life maintenance activities, on occasion, homebrew stocks run low and I am required to venture out and purchase commercial beer.  When that happens, here's the result (again listed in no particular order):

The Squirrely wrath List of Favorite Beers
  1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - It's hard to over-emphasize what an outstanding beer this is.  When the big American breweries were treating hops like a rare and expensive seasoning, Sierra Nevada started using American hops by the bucketful.  Forget budmillercoors beer, this is the quintessential American beer.
  2. North Coast Brewing Red Seal Ale - Another great example of an American pale ale; a little more balanced towards malt than Sierra Nevada, but still insanely hopped with a long, lingering finish.  I'm drinking one now, even as I type.  Don't hate me, beotches...
  3. Uinta Brewing Cutthroat Pale Ale - For the non-cognoscenti, it's pronounced "You-in-tah" and the beer is named after a native species of trout, not nefarious piratey-types.  Uinta describes this as a Northwest amber ale, but, given this is a low-alcohol beer per Utah law, it really shows the world that "lite" beers do not have to be the tasteless, colored water that the mega-breweries churn out.  Cutthroat is sold in a higher alcohol version outside of Utah as Angler's Pale Ale and Angler's is a very credible beer, but the Cutthroat low-alcohol recipe is genius.
  4. New Belgium Fat Tire - Just as Sierra Nevada showed the world what you could do with American hops, New Belgium demonstrated what could be done with malt, specifically, biscuit malt, lots and lots of it.  However, in the interest of full disclosure, when New Belgium's 2 Degrees Below comes out in the fall, there's no room for Fat Tire in my refrigerator.
  5. Bell's Two-Hearted Ale - Where Sierra Nevada very generously hops their Pale Ale with Cascade hops, Bell's uses another classic American variety, Centennial, for another great American pale ale.  This beer is, sadly, hard for us Western folks to come by.
  6. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale - This is Sierra Nevada's winter seasonal beer and think of it as their Pale Ale, squared; more hops, more malt, just more of a beer, if that's possible to imagine.
  7. Any Beer Brewed by Deschutes - It's impossible for me to pick a favorite beer from this brewery.  Their Black Butte Porter might well be the best commercial example of this hard-to-get-right style.  Their Mirror Pond Pale Ale is a less hoppy, more balanced pale ale than other American examples and the list goes on: Inversion IPA, Obsidian Stout, Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale, and I'll never pass up a six-pack of their Jubelale when it shows up on the shelves.
  8. Victory Brewing Yakima Glory nee' Yakima Twilight - This has been described as a dark India pale ale and that pretty much nails it; insanely hopped with a whole chocolately, roasted malt thing going on in the background.  This is just a dang good beer.
  9. New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest - I like the Oktoberfest style and have brewed a lot of them.  In my mind, I have a model of what an O'fest should be; deep amber with caramel overtones, balanced with a toasty flavor that comes from the use of a big pile of Munich malt.  Most Oktoberfests don't match up to this ideal.  Even imported Oktoberfests seemed to be watered and dumbed down for the American market.  In my mind, Staghorn is what an Oktoberfest should be.
  10. Flying Dog Doggie-Style Pale Ale - Another, very well-balanced pale ale from the brewery endorsed by Hunter S. Thompson, who knew a little about drinking beer.
Obviously, I'm picking ten beers out of literally hundreds (if not, thousands) and I've restricted my list to strictly domestic beer, so the above list begs for Honorable Mentions:

Goose Island Honkers Ale
Victory Brewing HopDevil
Three Floyds Alpha King
Bell's Hopslam
Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale
Goose Island Nut Brown Ale - sadly, GI has retired this beer
New Belgium 1554
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale
Others to be added as I think of them...

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