Archive for January, 2015
Continuing my New Year’s focus on some things not beer, I had another cider from my trip to Julian, CA. This one was cherry-infused and one with which I had almost the greatest hesitation going in. I am always leery of cherry flavors, as most of them remind me too much of cough syrup I had to take as a kid. Immature? Maybe, but it’s my thing… anyway, on with the show.
This one poured a dark red amber color with no noticeable head. It looked a lot like juice sitting in the glass. The aromas were yeasty and sweet, with tart cherries after and a very faint sourness. The taste was cherry up front all the way. It became tart very quickly after taking the first sip, though not so much as to overpower with any kind of pucker factor. The sweet cherry flavor came back right after, though the tartness persisted and lingered through the finish.
This was a surprising cherry drink that reminded me of anything but cough medicine. It was refreshing and not overly sweet, as I feared it might be. Still, nothing spectacular:
I recently took a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico and let me tell you, they love their chiles down there! It was a work trip and I was being chauffeured around by my boss, so I did not have as much time to explore the beer scene as I might have liked. Though, to be honest, NM is not exactly known for their craft beer focus. Even so, I got to try some local stuff, so let’s get into it.
Just down the street from my hotel was a pub aptly named ABQ Brew Pub. This was a small place that just popped up on my Yelp app on my phone that was within easy walking distance and seemed like a place to get a real local brew. It was connected to another sports bar place, so at least I knew they were economical about their operation. Walking in, it was just like any other nondescript local bar you might otherwise walk into in Anytown, USA: a tiny waiting area by the door that led to a cocktail seating area around a small bar. There were some dining tables surrounding the bar/cocktail area behind a low wall. It was very dark inside, but they had some cool ambient lighting with neon and some fireplaces high up on one wall (presumably for effect, more than warmth.)
When I asked my server for her recommendation on a quintessential New Mexico beer selection, she pointed me directly to a green chile infused one that is apparently their signature beer. I decided to include it in a flight of four to get a well-rounded experience.
I started with lighter flavors and went with the Sierra Blanca Nut Brown. This one is the empty you see above…I was just too excited, I guess. As I said, it was very dark inside and hard to tell, but it poured a deep red-brown color with thin white head that neither stuck around long, nor laced the glass to any appreciable degree. It smelled very carmelly, with lots of malty sweetness. This maltiness came through immediately on the first taste, with some sweetness coming through after. It had a pretty thick mouthfeel that coated my palate a bit. It finished a little calmer on the thickness, but lots of lingering roasted malt flavors. I can’t quite give it a 4, but still my favorite of the night:
Number two was the Alien Wheat. It poured a very clean, clear pale yellow color with smooth foamy head that left some light lacing on the sides of the glass. As expected, there was little aroma, except some light yeasty sourness. It tasted light and had a faint refreshing lemon flavor. Otherwise, it tasted very much like your typical light beer with some bitterness on the finish. Though it finished clean for a wheat, it was unimpressive:
Next up was the Monks Belgian Ale. This one poured a golden amber color with foamy, slightly off white head that really clung to the glass like glue. It had an alarming aroma of bananas and had surprisingly little sourness. I found this odd, as Belgian beers have always left me with a pleasant yeasty sourness. The first taste was mostly masked by the rather thick mouthfeel, but it was smooth. Bananas, yeasty malts and light carbonation all combined at once to finish with a medium caramel and the yeasty sourness I had missed earlier lingering afterward. This one was complex enough to entertain my taste buds, but still:
It has been said that it is best to save the best for last. I, however, prefer to put off potential pain for as long as possible. Although I was somewhat intrigued, the potential for pain was why the Rio Grande Pancho Verde Green Chile Cerveza was my last of the night. It started off well, pouring very clean and pale, much like a lager. It had little in the way of head, save a ring of white around the edge. Placing my nose over the glass I–CHILE. There was no other discernible aroma other than the overpowering smell of roasted green chile. This gave me a pretty good idea of what I would taste, but I pressed on and was rewarded with…CHILE. Afterward it moved to a heavy CHILE flavor. It finished clean, but…CHILE lingered well afterward, leaving a none-too-pleasing burning in my chest that felt like heartburn. Though the concept was very local and somewhat interesting, there was just far too much CHILE for me:
Overall, I was unimpressed by the beer selection at this particular establishment. If I am ever back that way, I will definitely give the Albuquerque beer scene another go, but I’m good for now.
In this new year (happy new year, by the way), I decided I need to start exploring my “new” hometown area a little more. Not wanting the downtown experience, with all the hipsters, run-of-the-mill bars and any kind of defined scene, I decided to head east to Julian, CA, home of some rather popular hard cider you may have seen on the shelves at a store near you.
This trip took me through two Indian reservations, four valleys and a lot of windy mountain roads, ultimately bringing me to the sleepy little community of Julian. This historical town is in the high desert east of San Diego. I learned some interesting tidbits in the local museum there, such as the town’s founding by three Civil War soldiers because land was much cheaper than in post-war Georgia. Some good food and interesting things along the main drag there in Julian, but we’re here for the beer, right?
Well, not to disappoint, but the drink of choice in this area is cider, mostly due to the vast apple orchards in the valleys around there. Enter Julian Hard Cider. Their process is very simple, brewing only with fruit juice and yeast. There is something to be said for simplicity in craft brewing.
The…brewery (do they “brew” cider?) is harder to find that I thought it would be, considering it sits in a town of fewer than 2,000 people. Like most breweries I have encountered, it inhabits an industrial warehouse-style building about three miles off the main drag. It is connected to an indoor mall of sorts, with a Mexican restaurant, craft studio and some other odd shops. I drove past it a couple of times before figuring out where I needed to be.
Walking in, to the right was a wide open gallery-style area with all the shops along the outside, an arcade in one corner, and a sitting area in the middle with couches and a couple plush chairs. It was kind of an odd assortment to me. But not to be deterred, I headed in for some sampling.
This is the lightest of their offerings, though each holds steady at a surprising 6.99% abv. Harvest Apple poured completely clear, with only the slightest hint of gold from the apples and only very few tiny bubbles from the carbonation. It had a sweet yeasty aroma, much like that of champagne. There was only a light apple smell and a touch of fermented sourness. It tasted very fresh, with the apples foremost, then the yeasty champagne flavor kicked in. After that, a tart sourness came through, finishing dry with tart apple flavors.
This was a refreshing drink, but it reminded me far too much of champagne, which, in turn, reminds me of a headache.
“Goodness, gracious, great [hops] of fire!” …ok, not really, but it sounded clever (enough). I would have thought with a name like Cinder Cone that this was a seasonal, but apparently they brew it year round. I had never seen this one from Deschutes before so I was kind of excited to try it.
It poured a deep orange-red with sudsy medium white head that streaked down the glass a little. The aromas included a slight fruity sweetness and a touch of sourness, but mostly hops. This gave me pause, as it didn’t present itself as an imperial red ale, but just as a regular red. My confusion lasted but a second, though and I pressed on. The first taste I got was bitterness right out the gate. It did have a smooth mouthfeel, with light carbonation and a bit of fruitiness. Toward the end, it presented the maltiness I had been missing the whole way through, but finished fruity and hoppy.
I was disappointed by the emphasis on the hops in this one, as I expected a bit more malty warmth from a beer with such a fiery name. Alas, too many hops for me, but still passable: