Friday, May 31, 2013

I'm not surprised that I like Rampant, the imperial IPA from New Belgium. I like New Belgium's Ranger IPA a lot, and this is like a bigger Ranger. It's the almost the same clear golden color with a trace of head, and the aroma is big, bitter citrus and grassy hops. The flavor is almost all hops, but the buttery malt in the background is rich and distinct. This will probably replace Ranger as my current fridge stocker, as long as I can keep finding it.

MOVIE REVIEW: MUD

Mud is not the worst movie I've seen in 2013, but it's easily the most overhyped.

With a 99% tomato meter (as of this writing) and all kinds of lavish praise from it's showing at Cannes, Mud seemed like a safe bet for an afternoon's entertainment. Besides the positive notices, the film seemed to have a lot going for it, including an ensemble of good to very good actors, including Sam Sheppard, Michael Shannon, Reese Witherspoon, and Deadwood's Ray McKinnon. But it turns out to be a whole lot of potential that amounts to nothing, and it takes far too long to get nowhere.

First, the good stuff: Matthew McConaughey stars as the title character, an enigmatic southern drifter with weird, otherworldly charm, and this is the kind of role that McConaughey is well suited for. He isn't so much an actor as a screen presence, and he's at his best in roles that require him to do little more than seem curious and vaguely dangerous. His character here packs curiosity and vague danger in spades, and McConaughey pulls it off effortlessly.

The other performances from the actors listed above are good, too. And as the primary child character in what amounts to a poorly done coming of age story, Tye Sheradan is outstanding. This kid can act, and probably has a future ahead of him. His name is worth remembering.

Where the movie falls short is in everything else, and it falls short in spades. Jeff Nichols directs aimlessly. The film takes forever to tell very little story at all. The plot seems like one long first act, with promised revelations that are never realized and character arcs that never arc. Besides that, there is a strong misogyny to this film. And "misogyny" isn't a word I use easily, given that I'm a guy who generally fears and mistrusts women. Thing is, I'm used to seeing movies that remind me that my fear and mistrust is illogical and dysfunctional. When I see a movie that seems to fear and mistrust women even more than I do, it makes me uneasy. There are three principle female characters in Mud. All three of them are self-centered, dishonest, and flaky as hell. That seems a bit heavy-handed.

And in the end, Mud never satisfies in any way. It never ties together all the lose ends, but it sloppily ties together too many of them to leave interesting, unanswered questions. It puts principle characters in dangerous, life-changing situations... and then lets those situations mostly pass the characters by, leaving them no more effected than they might be by weird weather or interesting, international news stories. And it gives us far too much McConaughey. For a character that's supposed to be enigmatic and mysterious, within the first hour he becomes far too godamn tedious and predictable. A little Mud goes a long way.

I can't really recommend this film, but if you end up seeing it, you'll see a good performance by Tye Sheradin and several very pretty location shots of Arkansas river property. If you want to see a coming of age film with some southern flavor, a real air of danger, and some memorably creepy characters, check out Undertow, instead. Don't bother with Mud.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Southern Tier's Krampus is an Imperial Pilsner with a big, malt-liquor kind of presentation. It pours the color of iced tea with a medium head and a lot of lace. The aroma is strong, rich, sweet malt and some bitter, floral hops. The flavor is strong and a little boozy. There is some spice and apples, and a big, bitter finish. This isn't something I'd have often, but it isn't bad.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

If I hadn't already come to enjoy hefeweizen, DC Brau's El Hefe Speaks would have done nothing to win me over to the style. Once you get past the terrible name, El Hefe Speaks is a marginal (at absolute best) wheat beer. It has a cloudy tangerine color with about a finger of foam that doesn't last. The aroma is unpleasant. It reminds me of boiling green beans. I love the taste of boiling green beans, but not the aroma. I did not love the taste of this beer. It tart in the finish, and maybe there's an implication of hops, but there just isn't much going on. The body is watery and slight. Meh.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The local folks at Parkway Brewing have turned out a pretty good little beer with Get Bent Mountain IPA. It pours cloudy golden colored with a faint and brief head. The aroma is citrus hops, maybe a little pine resin, with the malt way in the background. The malt is more of a presence in the flavor, but it’s still all about hops. Fairly average hop character as IPAs go, but enough to keep me happy. This ain’t bad.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Uinta Hop Notch IPA pours clear, golden peach color with very little head. Citrus notes in the nose, and the flavor is well balanced. Lots of sweet malt on the swallow with a hoppy tingle that almost seems like an afterthought, but nonetheless is unavoidable. Buttery and rich underneath, but not overly rich, and though it might be the color working on me subliminally, I thought I picked up something like peach notes.

Friday, May 24, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS

Before I review Star Trek Into Darkness, I should say up front that I am not a Trekkie. I should admit that I generally find everything to do with Star Trek annoying, I find Trekkies annoying (or Trekkers, or whatever the hell they call themselves), and I never gave a shit about Star Trek until the first JJ Abrams film in the series. I went to see that film reluctantly, and no one was more surprised than I was when I loved that film.

I am not sure just how disgusted long time Treksters really were about the fun, watchable elements of the first Abrams Star Trek movie, but I assume that they probably hated all of the things I loved about it. I assume that they probably also hate Into Darkness for all the reasons that I enjoyed it. And those reasons are:
  • It was fun. There was genuine humor all the way through the movie, some of it goofy and entirely accessible.
  • It wasn't a sci-fi movie in the sense of nonstop dark space shoot-outs involving star ship models against black backgrounds. Oh, sure, there were a few of those, but there were also a number of sequences like the ones that made the first Abrams film so much fun for me... big, loud, brightly lit action sequences that occurred in broad daylight on a mostly recognizable planet earth. These two Star Trek films by J.J. Abrams have as much in common with Die Hard as they do Star Trek. Imagine that, a Star Trek movie with real laughs and daylight action sequences. I love that. I imagine that the Trekiroti hate this movie for those same reasons.
  • There are also relatable characters who express human emotions. Even Spock, the highly logical Vulcan, is presented as a being who is stoic only as the result of tremendous effort, and as a man capable of being overwhelmed by emotion. This version of Spock is likable to me. I think I can relate to him. I think most guys could relate to him.
In fact, there is a lot of stuff in Star Trek Into Darkness that is aimed at just guys. Kirk and Spock have a love/hate best-adversarial-friends relationship (this is basically a buddy movie). Kirk sleeps with foxy alien chicks. There's 'splosions and gun fights. British sexpot Alice Eve joins the cast as a science officer, and gives us one completely gratuitous and pointless and wonderful glimpse of herself in her underwear.

So, between big laughs and chase sequences and the Kirk/Spock "buddy movie" element and Alice Eve's big ol' boobies, Star Trek Into Darkness seems more aimed at me than aimed at the average Trekian. It's an action film, but not a dumb one. There is a villain who is somewhat sympathetic (forcing you to consider morality and politics and etc, etc) and there is a scene or two where manly tears might be shed. I don't know if a Trekanatrix would embrace that or be disgusted by it. But anyone capable of enjoying a fun movie just for being fun ought to get a kick out of this film.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Avery's White Rascal is a Belgian white ale, and it's pretty good. It pours blonde with a giant head and the aroma is citrus hops, mild malt, and creamy Belgian brewer's yeasts.The flavor is a spicy Belgian with some banana and bread notes, and a little kick from the hops in the finish. I enjoyed this.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lagunitas Lucky 13 is a strong red ale that's worthy of serving alongside Oskar Blues G'Night and Stone's Bastard series. I mean, this is a damn fine, complex, rewarding beer. It pours a clear but deep amber, and the head is only a finger or so but there's a lot of continuous lace. The smell is inviting; spicy and dry with warm ginger and caramel notes, and the flavor is even better than that. The front of the sip floods my mouth with a slightly sweet, rich, mellow malt that finishes with hoppy burn and some kick from the ABV. There are all kinds of tasty notes that weave in and out of the flavor, like graham crackers, walnuts, buttered bread... God, this is drinkable. I hate to say it, but it might be more drinkable than my beloved Arrogant Bastard. If nothing else, this stuff is certainly a great introduction to the Strong American/Imperial Red style, because it's so classically strong but also so damn chuggable. Lagunitas has been knocking me out lately. Ever since Sucks, last year's Christmas beer, every new brew they've popped out has been a winner. This is one more.

Joe's Premium American Pilsner by Avery Brewing ain't bad. It pours bright yellow with a lot of carbonation. Lots of crackle and fizz during the pour. The aroma is muted, I picked up on a bit of hops but not a lot else. The flavor was better than I expected, and more bitter than the other pilsners I’ve had. The bitterness was dominant in the finish, there wasn’t much of anything up front. Some malty sweetness on the exhale. I’m still not in love with the style, but this was pretty good.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I thought Anderson Valley's Hop Ottin' IPA was decent. It poured bright, clear amber from the can with just an irresponsible amount of head. A mound of it. The aroma is citrus hops and sweet malt, and the flavor is hop forward with a slightly sweet aftertaste. More hops at the exhale. This is a pretty good IPA.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bell's Oarsman Ale isn't good. It's as pale and fizzy as any adjunct lager. The aroma is slightly bitter, and the flavor is really tart. Not bitter, but tart. Like pickle juice and beer mixed together. This was pretty bad.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout pours a dark, coffee brown with little head. The aroma is really outstanding. There's a really strong, sweet chocolate smell that actually reminds me of a chocolate scented candle or the aroma of a chocolate cake in the oven. It's one of the strongest and sweetest smelling chocolate beers I've ever smelled. The flavor is even stronger and sweeter chocolate cake, which I don't enjoy as much. It's just very, very rich and sweet. This would be a great dessert beer to share with a companion, but I found the flavor too rich and sweet to thoroughly enjoy just in terms of a guy and a beer. On the other hand, I know my girlfriend will love this stuff, and I plan to bring a bottle the next time I cook dinner.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I won't buy Bell's Midwestern Pale Ale again, but there's nothing wrong with it. MPA pours hazy amber in color with a brief head. The aroma is mild. An understated hint of malt and not much else. The flavor is better. Grainy, fairly rich malt with a little hop punch at the swallow and some bitter finish. Not a great beer, but a pretty good one.

Friday, May 17, 2013

DC Brau's The Citizen is a hoppy Belgian style ale, and I guess it's OK. It's a foggy, golden yellow color with an average head and lacing. The aroma is Belgian ale; strong, yeasty, warm malt and citrus and banana notes. There is a lot of hops in the flavor. Almost like a Belgian style IPA. Dry, crisp in the finish.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Anchor Porter is a good porter. It's deep brown with an average head, there are strong coffee and malty notes in the aroma. The flavor is rich and fairly complex. There's coffee and chocolate and rich, dark, bready malts. A little caramel, too, and some hop burn. I liked this and I'll buy it again.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The story behind the name of Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale is pretty funny, but this is a beer that doesn't need a novelty name to sell itself. One sampling is enough to guarantee this stuff a place on my buy-again list. It's a very bright amber color with a couple of fingers of head. The aroma is strong. The malty, sightly sweet tone in the aroma is balanced by an equally strong hop presence and a boozy feel. The flavor is delicious. It’s strong and boozy enough to compare favorably to Arrogant Bastard, but with a big rush of hops that smacks your mouth up front. Candied fruit, citrus and booze again in the finish. This is delicious.

Here are some notes on a flight I enjoyed at Blue 5 in Roanoke. Well, I really enjoyed one of these beers. The others couldn't measure up to the one. It might have been a mistake to do an all-IPA set-up.

The first beer in the flight was Stone's Enjoy By 5-17-13 IPA (far left in the picture below), and it was delicious. My longer review of that beer in specific is here.

Up next was a Founders Nitro IPA that just couldn't measure up to that Stone brew. The only thing I enjoyed about this beer was visual. It left the most lace I've ever seen on my glass. As I drank it, it absolutely painted the inside of the glass with a thick layer of white. I thought that was neat. But the flavor was weak and watery, which I'm not used to with Founders beers. It is rare that they disappoint me.

Next, Lost Coast Indica IPA, which was my second Lost Coast beer in just a few days, and my second major case of meh from Lost Coast. It was as crisp and as refreshing as a glass of cold water, which says more about how cold Blue 5 keeps their beer than anything else, I suppose. It was at about this point that all I was thinking about was getting a full pint of that Stone Enjoy By.

The last beer on the flight, a double IPA by Ballast Point, was just an obstacle to me at that point. I just sucked it down in a hurry so I could get back to the Stone beverage. Because of that I don't think I should really even review the Balast Point or the Lost Coast beers, and I have not reviewed them at RateBeer. It just wouldn't be fair. If I'd had them first and saved the Stone for last, maybe I could be objective about them, but I didn't.

Next time, I'm going back to a better balanced flight. An IPA, a stout, maybe a lager and a strong ale, etc. Trying to discern the finer qualities of four different IPAs back to back is too delicate a process for my neanderthal palate. Especially when the first one up is something amazing from Stone.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Nobody does IPA better than Stone, IMHO, and I was glad to finally get to sample their Enjoy By IPA, which is specially brewed to be enjoyed as fresh as possible. This stuff gets a ton of hype, and it's another Stone brew that really lives up to that hype. I had the Enjoy By 05-17-13 on 5-13-2013, on tap at Blue Five in Roanoke, VA. I sampled it first as part of a flight and then had a full pint with my lunch. Blue Five has a great bleu cheese and bacon burger that I always enjoy, but it took a major backseat today to this delicious IPA. Enjoy By is a glowing orange color with not a lot of head on my glass, but the aroma hits you from a mile away. It smells great. It reminds me of Stone's 16th Anniversary IPA, but brighter and really crisp. Grapefruit was the dominant note for me, but there were floral and grassy qualities as well. This thing hits the nose like a train and then doubles down in terms of flavor. I absolutely loved it and hope the Enjoy By series keeps finding it's way to restaurants and stores in my area.

I like DC Brau's The Public Pale Ale. A really good pale ale. Cloudy orange color with an average head, the aroma is malty and slightly tart. Pineapple and butterscotch notes, too. The best thing about the flavor is the hops. They’re big. They cold have marketed this thing as an IPA and I’ve had called it a slightly mild but tasty IPA. I really enjoyed this.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Williamsburg Alewerks Cafe Royale is a bourbon barrel aged coffee stout, and there's really nothing wrong with it. Pours deep brown with absolutely no head. This thing is flat. The aroma is OK. It's the mingling of bourbon, coffee and chocolate malt I expected. The flavor is alright, too. Very sweet. Big chocolate, but not bitter chocolate like I like. Just a really sweet, syrupy chocolate. Coffee and bourbon and a little hint of hops. Look, I'm just gonna say it... this is a trendy, hipster beer, and it's alright, but it isn't worth the money or the trouble of finding it. This is the kind of thing that could end up turning the craft beer thing into a bubble. There's just no need for this. It tastes pretty good, but there are a whole damn bunch of other, cheaper stouts that taste pretty good, too. Old Rasputin is FAR better than this, it's available everywhere, and it's half the price. Anything that costs this much and is this hard to find better be outstanding. Cafe Royale is nothing special, and it's somewhat limited availability and high price do not make it any more enjoyable.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I don't like Stone's Oak Smoked Old Guardian as much as I like the original version of the brew, and it's certainly not gonna become my favorite Stone beverage. It's rust colored and slightly foamy, like the original barley wine, but the smell isn't as good. The boozy, citrus tones are overwhelmed by the smoke notes, which are too strong for my taste. The flavor is too strongly smoked for me, too. There is a LOT of smoke, here. It's downright burned tasting. Both the sweet, syrupy barley malts AND the typical Stone hop overload are forced to take a back seat to the smoke. This isn't bad, but I'll have regular Old Guardian before I'll buy this again.

Friday, May 10, 2013

There are a number of good craft breweries in Virginia and, what? A million good craft breweries in the US these days? And, unfortunately, Lexington, Virginia's Devil's Backbone is just one more OK brewery. And Schwarz Bier, their black lager, is pretty piss poor. It's dark brown with a quickly fading head. The aroma is maybe slightly richer than Devil's Backbone's basic lager, but the flavor is, if anything, more watery. This thing has little alcohol, which is fine, but it's thin on flavor, too. Mild hops, and rather than malt, there's a a flavor like spring water that ran off charcoal. I cannot recommend this at all. Devil's Backbone has a couple of decent brews, but this ain't one.

I wanted to enjoy Downtown Brown Ale by Lost Coast Brewery more than I did, because the name of the brewery makes me think of Half Life 2. Unfortunately, this beer compares pretty strongly to the Lost Coast episode of HL2: OK, but unnecessary. It pours medium brown with a couple of fingers of head that leaves a little lace. The aroma is malt and a little bit of a hazelnut or roasted peanut thing going on. The flavor is all in the front. There’s a little nutty malt and a little bit of floral hops, and then the finish is like water. This might be a decent lawnmower beer, but it’s not the first one I’d pick up.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

As soon as I opened this can of 21st Amendment's Brew Free Or Die IPA, I got hit in the face with the smell of strong, citrus hops and spices. The color is a hazy lemon yellow, with a foamy head. The taste is delicious. The hops kind of work together in such a way that with one sip there are pine notes, with the next it’s all citrus and flowers, and then grassy herbs the next time, etc. Behind it all there is a really solid, rich, buttery malt. I will buy this again.

I liked Bells Porter. It's dark brown with a huge head that seems to swell indefinitely after it's poured. I had what looked like a mound of coffee flavored ice-cream on top of my glass, and I ended up drinking through it. The aroma is rich, malty, and sweet and slightly spicy. Notes of coffee and toffee highlight the smell. The flavor is really nice. There's a sweet, chocolate malt character with a bit of cereal and toast in the finish. Mildly hopped. I liked this quite a lot.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I had a Vienna Lager by Devil's Backbone with dinner tonight, and it was alright. It had a rusty orange body with a spotty, somewhat soapy head. The aroma was a mild malt and the flavor was more of the same. It actually reminded me a little of Yuengling's standard lager, but without quite as much character. Not awful, not amazing.

DC Brau beers have been harder for me to track down than I'd have thought they'd be, given that the brewery isn't far from here. I finally got a can of The Corruption, DC Brau's IPA, and it was worth the wait. The appearance and aroma are standard IPA stuff; cloudy copper color, big foamy head, and a lot of pine and floral hops in the aroma. The flavor is outstanding. The hops hit first and hit hard, and at the finish there is a really rich, smooth, buttery malt that gives this thing outstanding balance. Compares favorably to Bells Two Hearted and the better Hoppin’ Frog IPAs.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I was better prepared the second time I had Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot, a rich brown ale. It's a really nice looking beer; it’s a dark brown marble with orange and rust tones around the edges and a healthy head that leaves a thick lace. The aroma is a big malt and a big hops. The balance is perfect for the nose. It’s pretty damn well balanced for the tongue, too. The malt is rich and big, right up front. There are caramel and big, bready, pumpernickel, bran muffin kind of rich tones. The hops are strong in the aftertaste. They’re all I tasted at the swallow. But up until that swallow the malt was dominant. Each sip made the next one more inviting. I’ll have this again.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Anderson Valley's Bourbon Barrel Stout is aged in Wild Turkey barrels. It's pretty good. It pours black with no real color highlights and a thin head. The aroma has the chocolate malt and vanilla/bourbon notes I expected, plus something a little bit like apple butter. The flavor is rich, sweet and spicy. The chocolate and apple butter notes are there in the flavor, the finish is kinda crisp, and there is a slightly boozy vapor that lingers in the nose. This was an expensive stout and I can't see paying the price again. Other stouts by North Coast, Oskar Blues, Founders and New Holland are just as good but a little more affordable.

Friday, May 3, 2013

New Albion Ale is brewed by Samuel Adams. It's a bright, yellow, sparkling fluid, and it reminds me very much of beer. It's Golden peach colored with a little foam and a little lace. There’s a mildly beer like aroma and kind of a malty, slightly tangy beer like taste. It made me really crave a beer, so I'm going to go have one now.


By the way, there's a really romantic, heartwarming craft beer story behind this particular product, and you can watch the heartwarming, romantic, short movie about it at this link.
I would imagine that drinking bear urine "straight from the tap," as it were, is a god-awful, mind-scaring experience. Drinking Torch Pilsner by Foothills Brewery is not as bad as that. I'd say this is a pleasant enough looking beer. Average head, bright yellow body. The aroma has that cooked cabbage quality that I associate with certain hops, and someday I hope to be able to identify the hops in question by name so that I can name them and then grimace. There is very slight, malty taste up front with a little hop in the finish. Mostly this is watery, a little stinky, and not fun to drink. "Slight" is a good word for this.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Weyerbacher's Insanity is my new favorite barley wine. Great God, this is good beer. The body is an inviting, thick-looking, creamy brown, and the head fades quickly and leaves little lace. The aroma is sweet and rich. Notes of honey and booze. The flavor is just freaking outstanding. The big presence is vanilla. I’ve had vanilla bean beer that didn't have this much vanilla. Bourbon barrel stouts don’t bring the vanilla out of the oak aging as well as this barley wine does. This is like a french vanilla milkshake level vanilla. Just incredibly rich and smooth. There is also boozy, malty, bready stuff going on, too. It’s rare that a beer this sweet appeals to me as much as this one does, but damn. Sweet and rich doesn't get better than this. This is a fine, fine beer, and easily the best thing I’ve had from Weyerbacher.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Avery's Salvation Belgian style Ale is pretty good. It has a very cloudy grapefruit juice color with a creamy head that clings to the glass. The aroma is big and sweet and fruity. Lots of bananas and spice, and some buttery malt. The flavor changed as I got used to it and as it warmed. It started out sweet and rich, but the heat from the 9% ABV came on strong by half way through the glass. It never got old, though. It never really brought that extra something that makes the better Belgians special. Not as much of a big, bready, yeasty quality as I'd have liked. And no secondary spices and uncommon flavors sneaking in over the course of the bottle. Still, I enjoyed it.