Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jubelale Fail

I had Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale at Pearl Street Grill a few weekends ago. It was their featured beer, running $2 during happy hour [3-6 p.m., 10 p.m.-midnight, daily: $1 off well, wine, & draught]. That was pretty much why I got it. And because of the wildly colorful label, with the bright primary hues you’d find at a children’s museum. Or on a Bill Cosby sweater. Or a circus tent. I really like the label; colorful things are to me like shiny objects are to . . . I don’t know, ferrets? Anyway, it was as cheap as getting a pop or a lemonade, so I went with it.

Unfortunately, as exciting as the label appeared, the beer behind it was just as dull and uninteresting. Maybe I got caught up in the anticipation and my expectations were too high. Maybe Deschutes’s were too low. The beer didn’t taste bad, mind you. It was just unremarkable. Completely unremarkable. It was like . . . well, we all know someone who endeavored to make his own beer at one time or another, right? He bought the kit, followed the directions, and, when it was all finished, you cracked one open and, low and behold, it worked! The stuff tasted like beer. Probably not like particularly good beer, or interesting beer, but genuine, honest-to-goodness beer. Pretty amazing.

That’s what Jubelale reminds me of: the result of a carefully-followed standard recipe from a prepackaged beer kit, using all the enclosed extracts and hops, and arriving at something that tastes like beer. This is not all bad. Jubelale is very drinkable and unoffending. Very mild, especially for such a dark beer. It’s a winter ale, so it’s a little darker in color than your average ale—maybe like hot chocolate at the deeper end, root beer-like in the shallower parts. But, in the end, it was like drinking plain beer.

And who likes plain? Would you eat a plain Jolly Rancher? Or a plain sandwich? Not any more than you would smoke plain cigarettes or hire a plain stripper. You want things in life that have a little something to them. Jubelale just doesn’t have that something. My fix? Less Cosby, more flavor.

Half a thumb up, 2 stars

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Super Belgian Happy Fun Live Drinkathon

So, get to talking about what the best beer is long enough, and someone is bound to bring up Chimay. One of only a handful of breweries run by Trappist monks, Chimay is often called out for making one of the best. I know what you're saying - good beer, made by monks, in Belgium? Remember though, this is the country that supplied us with their eponymous waffles and reveres french fries (frites), chocolate and cyclocross. By those standards, everything that country des should be awesome. Which brings us to today's review...

My own personal introduction to Chimay came back in college, when my now brother-in-law was in the midst of his 10th or 20th Old Chicago's World Beer Tour. During those hazy days, Chimay always came up as the best of the bunch. I had a few back then, but since my palate and liver were more geared toward quantity rather than quality, it was pretty much a wash. This past weekend, however, as he and I hit the liqour store and were mulling spending big on a bottle of Stranahan's, we (literally) stumbled across Chimay gift sets: 12 oz bottles of each of their three beers, and a goblet-style glass that is apparently ideal for true beer tasting. Stranahan's would have to wait (and my bank account thanks me for it. Seriously. Stuff is damn pricey).

Which finally, again, brings us to tonight's marathon testing. I'll walk through each of the beers as I knock them back, starting with Chimay Trippel (its got a white cap). Reading Chimay's description of the Trippel is a bit ridiculous: apparently, according to the monks, it tastes of 'muscat' and 'dry grapes' (really? Muscat? I hope you, the reader, am as suspicious as I am. Don't we hire people to exterminate muscats? Dodgy, with a capital D). On appearance, it fits the bill as a classic Trippel - light colored, a little hazy and apparently bout 8% alcohol (gotta like that last part). Taste wise, its good, maybe not knock your socks off good, but tasty. A little bitter and hoppy, but not too much so. Maybe a bit of flavor from the yeast, a sort of bread-like flavor. And you can really taste that muscat.

Round two: Chimay Blue (also known as the Grande Reserve). Before we dive too deeply into this next review, I think some learnings from tonight's testing are already apparent, most notably: strong beer+shitty work day+long workout-three square meals = trouble. We'll see just how this progresses, but I can tell you that a bottle of Chimay's Blue isn't going to help my clarity of brevity. With that, Blue's tale of the tape: 9% alcohol, fragrance of yeast and 'a light, flowery rosy touch'. Right. I'll agree, its got a kick, and a taste and aroma distinctive to Belgian style beers. Its not easy to pin that flavor down: cola? exotic central northern European spices? the water of Wallonia? Hard to tell, but two things are clear: its not like any other style you'll try, and it's tasty. Like, not the type of beer you'd knock back after a day of yard work, but maybe definitely a tasty option for putting yourself into a nice little coma after a day on the slopes (assuming that can happen this year).

Last but not least: Chimay Red. Lets be honest: by this point, the sensitivity of my palate is suspect, to say the least. Not too say I couldn't distinguish this between Schuler's or Huber, but my assessment probably leaves room for improvement. With that, I'd have to say that Red tastes an awful lot like Blue. Not spot on exact, necessarily, but mighty close. Again, that distinctive flavor of Belgian beers: a little bitter, a little exotic, tasty but hard to pin down. Good, and while not necessarily an acquired taste, certainly one that you'll either love or hate. If you're looking for a traditional, simple beer, you won't find it here; if you're looking for something more refined, then this (and Blue) are the gold standards.

So, in all, where does Chimay stand? Their reputation as a refined, quality brewer is well-earned and is reflected in each of their beers. That Belgium-specific flavor is hard to beat (Seriously-anyone, what is that? And whats a muscat? And what do muscats eat?) and not something you run across every day, even in domestic craft beers (or microbrews, or whatever today's term is for brewers that aren't Anheuser/Busch/Coors/Molson/Miller/Pabst). But again, what price do you put on that flavor? A 750ml bottle of Red is about that of a sixer of anything from New Belgium: I'd argue that the production quality between the two can't be all that different, which means that you're paying a lot more for that flavor. But damn, that flavor...good stuff. If you're looking for something for a special occasion, buck up and spend big. Totally worth it.

Monday, November 19, 2007


So its been a few days (or weeks) since the last post, mainly because I've been on a little break to Chicago. As for the drinking scene there, one word: rock-tacular. I'm a big proponent of Denver's drinking scene (as are others, apparently), but Chicago seems to do it right, consistently. More to come...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Breckenridge Brewery's Oatmeal Stout

Right. An ideal day: mid-week powder day at Breckenridge, doing laps until it feels like Barry Bonds spent a few hours working over your quads with a 2X4, and wrapping up the day with a Quandry burger and a quick pint at Breckenridge Brewery before either finding a couch to crash on making the long, cold drive back to Denver. Of course, if you've got the day of and theres fresh deep snow to be had, you're driving the extra 45 minutes to Vail. But still...burger and beer tastiness...hard to walk away from...

With that in mind, and a total lack of new snow in the mountains (wtf? 70 degrees in November? really? f***. Poor form, Mother Nature.) its time to pick up Breckenridge's Oatmeal Stout. Before we get too far into the review, lets just get right down to it: the beer is awesome. Not in a fancy, we-use-licorice-coriander-and-orange-peel kind of way, but in a straight up, simple, well made beer kind of way (making it that much better).

We'll get to the oatmeal first. Not a huge contributor to flavor, oatmeal give the beer 'mouthfeel' (yes thats a word, and no its not x-rated. in most instances); basically, making the beer a little heavier and thicker, and giving it better head retention. Its contribution is pretty clear here: the beer is nice and smooth, with a nice head (seriously, trying to keep it clean here).

The flavor is spot on for what you're looking for in a nice dry stout. Chocolate flavor (think dark chocolate) and coffee flavors cover it. Theres hops in there for bitterness, but Breckridge keeps them pretty light. Could be me, but I pick up some smokiness too: likely, roasted malts make up some of the grain and contribute to that cup-o'-joe taste. The beer lacks any sort of fancy ingredients or flashy style, and the flavor is all the better for its conservative build.

This is a beer for the right occasion. You can't just knock it back, and drinking a few pints of this with a heavy meal is a recipe for a coma. As lightweight as it is - 5% alcohol by volume - I can see this kicking my ass after a day on the mountain (I want to say it actually did kick my ass after a day of racing llamas - you heard me, llamas - but any drink had that day was followed by many more). I see this one as a late night, shooting the shit with the fellas with a stogie type of beer. Overall:

7 thumbs up, 3 stars.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Oskar Blues "Old Chub" Scottish Style Ale

Right. What Brandon said.

So back when I was a barely employed lab geek and bike mechanic living in Boulder, I used to ride a few trails up and around Lyons. At some point on the drive I stared to notice the Oskar Blues Brewery, but didn't stop in for years, much to my regret.

So about a week back, our British pal Big Chris' wife gave birth to their first child. Given the occasion and Chris' Scottish heritage, I thought I'd whip up a batch of strong Scottish ale to celebrate the occasion. This was a problem, Since the only Sottish beer I've ever had was a McEwans, and that was back when my alcohol consumption could only be described as heroic. That I could taste any of it then, and could even remember it now, is dodgy.

So I needed a benchmark, something so I could pull together some sort of recipe for Big Chris and the family. I've had Oskar Blues "Dale's Pales Ale" in the past (and found it pretty tasty) and know that they produced a traditional Scottish ale, Old Chub (gotta get the story on that name). What better a way to figure out how to make a good Scottish ale, than to drink a bunch of it?

So, three (or four) cans in, heres my take. And yes, I did say cans: Oskar Blues cans their beers, rather than bottles them (more on that later).

All in all, a good beer. Its strong (8%) which is always a plus. On the can, Oskar Blues lists chocolate and caramel malts as their major and ingredients, and it shows. The beer is dark, almost stout dark, with a nice rich flavor. Its on the bitter side without being very hoppy, which is probably the result of using smoked malts.

Smoked malts, you say? Whats that? Smoked malts result from taking regular malted barely and smoking it over a peat fire. Using this stuff can be tricky, because it doesn't take much to make your beer taste like a good scotch, only weaker and not so refreshing after a day of yard work. Old Chub nails it: the beer gets a little bit of the bitterness and dryness and bit of smoked flavor, without making it taste like it was filtered through a campfire. In all, tasty stuff.

Now, back to the issue of canned beer. I've only had two other other canned microbrews: Oskar Blues' Dales Pale Ale, and Ska Brewery's Ska Special E.S.B. I won't pretend to be impartial to Ska Beers Ska Special E.S.B. (me and Ska's beers go way back) but while both are good brews, I wouldn't say the can added or subtracted anything from the beer itself. That is, except the price - a sixer of cans of any of these beers (in 12.oz cans) is the same as a sixer of 16 oz. bottles. Thats a problem: if you're paying the same for 25% less beer, you expect the beer to be 25% more awesome.

In the case of all three of these beers, thats just not the case. They're good, damn good, but unless you're looking for a specific beer, canned microbrews are tough to justify. Your best bet? Go to Lyons, hit Oskar Blues, and get Old Chub straight from the source while digging into their menu (a mix of tasty cajun goodness) and catching few live shows.

Summary review, Old Chub:
3 thumbs up, 6 stars.

Good Beer Here

Like you, we here at JonesyDog love beer. All kinds of beer. Ales, stouts, lagers. Kegged beer, canned beer, bottled beer (but not green bottles. Those are for frat boys and . . . well, I guess just frat boys). Beers brewed in big factories, in local breweries, and in Chuck’s kitchen. We welcome all walks of beer as long as it meets our single, vital criteria: it has to be good.

We’ve tasted enough beer to know what’s good and what’s swill. I think we’ve collectively drunk about a Lake Erie’s worth. Some of you are saying to yourself, ‘Isn’t that actually the smallest of the Great Lakes?’ And it is, you clever buggers, but come on, it’s still a Great Lake, and it still adds up to 116 cubic miles (of rancid, polluted water--pretty much what you'll find in a Heineken). We figure that's enough to qualify our opinion as 'expert.'

Not all of our drinking experiences have been pleasant. There is some awful filth out there masquerading as beer. We’ve come across a lot of it. And we think it would be a shame for you to repeat our mistakes. Drinking beer should be an enjoyable experience, not a disgusting disappointment.

The way it’s gonna work is, we’ll regularly post our review of whatever beer we happen to be drinking that day and tell you whether it’s safe for you to drink, too. Pretty soon we’ll have a vast library of reviews that you can peruse at your own leisure. In the mean time, if there’s a beer that piques your interest but you don’t see it on our list, let us know and we’ll put it through our professional screening process. That is, if we can find it and it doesn’t cost $15 a bottle (looking at you, La Folie).

We’re not beer snobs or connoisseurs. We won’t tell you it has notes of burnt white oak or green grape undertones. We aren’t interested in how fruity the nose is. You don’t really care about that anyway. You just want to know if a beer is worth your money to buy and worth your time to taste. We’ll tell you that.

We drink other stuff, too. Namely, whiskey. So we’ll review the firewater every now and again, as well. Of course, if you want us to review some obscure 18-year-old single malt, you’re going to have to send us a bottle, or at least pick up our tab at Pint’s.

That brings us to our final point: we don’t do all our drinking at home. There are plenty of bars out there that you’ve never been to, right? Chances are, we’ve tied on a few there at some point. Kind of comes with the territory. The territory of drinking a lot, I mean. So we will let you know, in as much detail as we feel up to, what Denver-area bars deserve your money and which ones just plain suck.

Feel free to comment. We probably don’t care what you have to say, but someone else might (not likely). At any rate, we’re open to suggestions. And don’t forget to click on our sponsors. They keep us dr--uh, in business.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


This thing work? Awesome...