Head to Head: Oscar Blues Dales Pale Ale vs. Stone Pale Ale

•May 26, 2011 • 1 Comment

Welcome to today’s Head to Head challenge.
Style: American Pale Ale. View the top American Pale Ales

a beer loved by many

If I was to picture the ideal Pale Ale in my head both of these would be close to that image. The Stone is the darker of the two with a beautiful amber color and a small off white head. The head quickly recedes and does not lace much lace on the glass. The Dales on the other hand is a bit lighter but has a much fuller and dense off white head with some good retention. There is a moderate amount of lace left on the glass. Either one of these can fit the bill for a good looking Pale Ale but I will give the win to the Dales by a small margin.
     Winner – Oscar Blues Dales Pale Ale

Neither of the Aromas of these two blew me away. Of the two it was definitely the Oscar Blues that had the least aroma. There was some grassy notes along with a slight malt character. There was also a slightly musty character. The Stone had a lot more going on with a distinct floral with touches of honey. A few notes of bread and even a slight touch of herbs. Neither had a much of a hop presence in the aroma which I found disappointing. But the Stone was the better of the two with a much more complex bouquet.
     Winner – Stone Pale Ale

If the aromas of both beers were a little disappointing the taste of one of these beers was close to perfect. The Dales had a wonderful medium body. There was a distinct citrus hop flavor with a nicely judged malt balance. But then the bitterness starts to come in and take over. It is never harsh and all in all is beautifully balanced. The Stone on the other hand seems quite subdued, which for a brewery known for its big over the top flavors is a bit of a surprise. It is not often I say this about Stone but here I wish there was more bitterness. There is a slight sweetness to start and then the slightly tangy mouthfeel just sort of fizzles out. I kept waiting for the bitterness but it never appeared in any real quantity. So without a doubt the standout was the Oscar Blues!
     Winner – Oscar Blues Dales Pale Ale

The Stone had a good dry finish but did lack the bitter finish that a good American Pale Ale deserves. The Dales had a smooth finish with a good does of bitterness. What I love about it is it never became overpowering or harsh just stayed refreshing and hoppy. A great beer for a hot sunny day. Shame I live in San Francisco. So on finish the Dales Wins.
     Winner – Oscar Blues Dales Pale Ale

Other than the aroma the Oscar Blues wipes the floor with the Stone. In appearance it is just about perfect. I do not see how the taste could be better. The finish could be a bit drier for my taste but it still beats the Stone. The Stone did have a better aroma but it just lacked the Hops. Perhaps it was an off night or bottle for me saying a Stone beer lacked hops is indeed a rare occurrence. I am sure it will get a chance to redeem itself but tonight the Dales Pales Ale reigns Triumphant.
     Winner – Oscar Blues Dales Pale Ale


Head to Head: Port Brewing Wipeout IPA vs. Russian River Blind Pig IPA

•May 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Welcome to today’s Head to Head challenge.
Style: India Pale Ale. View the top IPAs

The Blind Pig pours with a beautiful clear golden color with a good sized off white head. The head is full of medium sized bubbles and dissipates quickly leaving some attractive lace. The Wipeout pours a similar golden color but has a slight haze. The head is also off white but has smaller bubbles. The head sticks around longer and left some thick lace. Over all both were good looking beers but I am a sucker for some nice lace so the win goes to Port Brewing
     Winner – Port Brewing Wipeout IPA

On sniffing the Port brewing I was a little surprised by the subdued aroma. It took a while for me to pick up on the slightly floral aroma that had a faint citrus aroma. The subtlety might have to do with the strength of the aroma from the Russian River. This is a simply stunning aroma. There is a hint fo grass but a bigger aroma of grapefruit accompanied by a touch of floral finish. This really is what I want from an IPA. It just invites you to sniff the aroma over and over and really gets you excited about what is to come next. No contest here the winner is the Blind Pig!
     Winner – Russian River Blind Pig IPA

After such a strong showing with the aroma the Blind Pig was a bit of a let down. Only a bit really. The flavor has all the hallmarks of a great IPA. There is a moderately strong bitterness the builds and is accompanied by some grassy tones. The body is maybe a bit on the light side and there was a little tang to the beer. The Wipeout also put in a solid performance. While slightly less bitter it still had plenty of presence. There was more malt sweetness and the body was a heavier. That being said nothing really stood out with the Wipeout so the taste category goes to the Russian River.
     Winner – Russian River Blind Pig IPA

The Port Brewing had a bitter finish and in particular it seemed to stick to the roof of my mouth. There was also a slightly carbonated feel. The Russian River had a more bitter finish that I felt veered close to harsh. It did have a really pleasant dry finish. Both had solid if different finishes so for the finish we have a tie.
     Winner – Tie

If appearance and finish were the only categories then the Wipeout would probably come out ahead. But then there was the gorgeous aroma of the Russian River. I would have to say it was simply stunning. And if you know me you will know I like to say that about truly awesome beers. The taste of the Russian River while not stunning showed all the proper characteristics of an IPA. The Wipeout seemed a bit washed out in comparison. There was nothing wrong with it and I would say that it is a very strong IPA but today the standout is the Russian River Blind Pig!
     Winner – Russian River IPA

Just a few more.

•May 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I picked up a few more beers while at the Mill Valley Market They have the best selection of beers I have found in Marin County. In particular the ability to pick up AleSmith IPA is a real treat as it is one of my favorite IPAs and was impossible to find when I was in NC. Finding the duganA was a real surprise as I have not found much Avery in the area and I have been looking for the Maharaja to no avail. I remember the duganA very fondly and expect it to do very well in the upcoming tastings. The Firestone Walker Double Jack was picked up at the local whole foods and should also stand a good chance of excelling. When I go on these beer buying trips for these tastings it definitely makes me feel like a kid in a candy store!

I need to take a complete picture of all the Ales but for now here are the new ones.

Head To Head: Stone Ruination IPA vs. Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

•May 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Welcome to today’s Head to Head challenge.
Style: Imperial India Pale Ale. View the top Imperial IPAs

The Hop Rod Rye poured a reddish orange with a small off white head. The head had a few large bubbles and actually left a reasonable amount of lace on the glass for such a small head. The Ruination poured a golden amber color much more to style but also suffered from a very small head what bubbles were there were tiny and very little lace was left on the glass. As for the winner I think it must go to the Bear Republic. While definitely a bit on the dark side for the style it was the beer I wanted to try first.
     Winner – Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

It is at this point I start to really enjoy these tastings. The first smell of a finely crafted bear can be such a joy. Its a shame that the Ruination did not live up to the expectation. The aroma had a whiff of citrus and a slightly grassy the overall aroma could best be described as subtle or in a less pleasing way as rather bland for an Imperial IPA. This was brought home when I then smelled the Bear Republic. Wow now this is more like it. There is a strong citrus aroma alternating between an orange and a grapefruit and you can smell the presence of hops. Deciding between the two here was fairly easy.
     Winner – Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

Jumping straight I grabbed the Hop Rod Rye and was greeted by a large bitter mouthful. Initially it was a bit of a surprise just how bitter the beer was but then some of the maltiness came through to provide a level of balance that allowed me to enjoy the medium body mouthful. I was keen to try more. But then I tried the Stone and wow! Now that is bitter. In fact I would go so far as to say it was harsh. I kept hoping that a bit of balance would appear but instead I was left wanting. Hop heads should love it but for me It was not the beer that stood out.
     Winner – Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

I am not sure that either of these beers had what I would say particularly appealing finish. The Ruination had a cloying harshness that was very evident on the roof of the mouth. Without a doubt it was a long finish but not what I would call pleasant. On the other hand at least it had a finish full of character. The Hop Rod Rye on the other hand was a bit of a let down after its strong showing up to that point. In isolation the finish is probably good but here it seems a bit weak and short. That might sound a bit harsh but at least it did not assault my palate and the roof of my mouth like the Stone.
     Winner – Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

So pretty straightforward in the end. In every category the Hop Rod wins. Is that to say the Stone is a bad beer? Of course not. In fact if you are a serious hop head you will love it. In fact for the alcohol content I can not imagine many bears could offer you as much bitterness as this big bold beer from Stone. The Bear Republic on the other hand offers an appearance that draws you in, glorious aroma, pleasing taste and a non offensive finish. So Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye for the win!
     Winner – Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

Time to begin again!!!

•May 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Two Years! That almost how long it has been since I last posted. A lot has happened in the last two years including a new job and a move across the country. My love of beer has not changed it has just been directed at other endeavors. But now it is time to start again.

In the coming weeks and months I hope to get back up to speed with the Head to Head comparisons. The main focus will be on the Pale Ale Family. While I would love to do them for all styles I am but one man so for now I will focus on the following styles:

  • American Pale Ale
  • English Pale Ale
  • American India Pale Ale
  • English India Pale Ale
  • Double/Imperial India Pale Ale
  • Black India Pale Ale
  • Belgian India Pale Ale

As a taste of what is to come here are a few of the beers in the Cellar. I hope you are as excited as I am:)

p.s. If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and would like to take part in the tastings let me know. It is always nice to have company.

Anchor drinks at the Dev Cat, Sheffield UK

•June 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment


Every couple of weeks, my pals and I pop to the Devonshire Cat in Sheffield to sample some wonderful beers that have been imported from goodness knows where.

The managers of the pub have recently been over to the states and brought some different Anchor beers over. Last Thursday we tried these:

  • Anchor Porter
  • Summer Beer
  • Libery Ale
  • Anchor Bock

Anchor Porter
Our favourite. Frankly this is the best porter according to the 3 of us who went to the pub. It never goes wrong (although once there was an odd batch that tasted different). Really deep and tasty. Medium sweet but not too much. Fizzy! Yes, the fizziness is just great. Holds a special place in our hearts.

Summer Beer
Refreshing as you’d expect but really quite complex at the same time. As it was last week, I don’t remember much more. Maybe not the best of the evening although I had a porter before this so it might have been very different if I’d had it first (which I’ll do next time)!

Libery Ale
This is a regular and one of Anchor’s biggest. Really nice. Better than the stream beer (for which they are most famous for) and quite zingy. Very drinkable and enjoyable yet tasty – it rounded off my evening perfectly.

Anchor Bock
Woah – this was pretty mind-blowing. Really great. It is so fruity and strong but is thoroughly delicious! It’s quite complicated in terms of flavour (that’s flavor for you US guys) and the hops work perfectly in there. You could say it’s similar in some ways to the Porter but is definately stronger and more complicated. I will be drinking this again, regardless of the crazy cost!

Beer Trip: Charlotte NC, part 3

•May 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

On Monday night we took an outing to the Charlotte location of the Duckworth’s Grill and Bar.

Having checked out the menu before hand I knew that there would be a few decent taps out of the 20 on offer. Of particular interest were the Arrogant Bastard, Two Hearted Ale and 90 Minute IPA. While there was nothing unusual about the list there were a few really good beers to look forward to drinking. Well once we got there we were greeted by an even better list. We ordered a Founders Double Trouble, Foothills Seeing Double and a Flying Dog Double Dog. I had to pass on the 90 Minute, Stone Ruination and a few other tasty beers as my kidneys can only take so much. My wife was kind enough to share with me and also had an Allagash Black that was much better than I remember the bottle I had some time ago.

Duckworth’s is a smallish place with perhaps 15 bar stools and a number of tables for dining. There were a few other people drinking good beer but it was pretty quite overall. The atmosphere was fine, nothing special but nothing negative either.

One mark against is our first beers were served in frozen glasses. After that incident I asked for non-frozen glasses and they were happy to oblige with non-chilled glasses.

But the real clincher was that the tab for four beers and a bowl of fries came to $10. These were 12oz pours so I rate that as a stunning bargain. With that in mind this is definitely the place I would recommend going on a Monday night.

Hope to see you there.