Friday, July 11, 2014

Still Life from Beachwood BBQ and Brewing

Beachwood BBQ's menu references tattoos in its description of Still Life...

...does that mean it will be regrettable??

Still Life smoked stout, Beachwood Brewing, Long Beach, CA
8.8 ABV
69 IBUs 

Last weekend was Beachwood BBQ's third anniversary and though this writer missed that (and, apparently not many else did), some of their best remained on draft the weekend after. 

This includes Still Life, Beachwood's smoked oatmeal stout. 

Besides being unique like a tattoo, the menu describes Still Life thusly:

... a smoked double oat stout that celebrates this idea [uniqueness]. Brewed with house-smoked malts and toasted oats, Still Life is a luscious and rich stout with subtle accents of smoke. Be still, soak in the nuanced flavors and aromas, and enjoy life!

TheCraftBeerGuru gives in to Beachwood's command.  Let life enjoyment commence!

Still Life pours opaque, with an inch-tall head rising in the tulip.  This topping is dimply like a golf ball, and off-white in shade. Intermittent traces of this head cling to the inner glass like dirty soap bubbles to the side of a tub. 

The aroma is magnificent in its lavishness, and though having a moist connotation, still conjures thoughts of a freshly opened tin of powdered cocoa. 

Similarly, there is a neat Nesquick characteristic in the flavor profile.  It's quickly chased by the promised, rustic charred backbone.  The smokiness, though, is a bit odd, with an unexpected wet tree bark hint. 

A highlight is a very subtle but welcome velvety caramel undertone.   

The texture is surprisingly thin with middling carbonation that pops up in the back of the mouth and just slightly more than mildly tingles the roof. 

Still Life's rather abundant hoppiness is not unexpected but, perhaps, overdone.  Consequently, the overall profile is as similar to a Black IPA as it is a big, rich stout.  The same holds true for the aftertaste, which leaves a lingering, gin-like dryness. 

Still Life is a flawed, yet thoroughly acceptable beer.  It would be made better, if it:
  • Was a bit thicker; either creamier or more chewy
  • Toned down the IBUs slightly
  • Featured more of that caramel silkiness recommends Still Life, with a 3 star (of 5) rating.  Perhaps unfortunately, this beer is too naturally compared to its tremendous Beachwood brethren. While Still Life fails to achieve the rarefied class of, say, Melrose or Mocha Machine, it remains, nevertheless, a worthwhile pleasure.  

Still Life, if by most other breweries, would be their best.  Yet, only above average by Beachwood's standard; a credit to the remarkable level of their quality. 


Friday, May 16, 2014

Duet by Alpine Beer Company

Nelson is a uniquely excellent beer.  

Alas, tonight's review is of another Alpine beer, Duet.  And, while quite good, it is victimized by the magnificence of its brethren. 

"Duet" by Alpine
Enjoyed at the Beachwood BBQ, Inc.
Long Beach, California

Duet is a 7.0% ABV IPA, with an undisclosed amount of IBUs, but this Guru's estimate is "plenty".  

Alpine talks little of their beer selection on their website, so the history and composition is left to the determination of us, the people.  

Whereas Nelson was super exotic and basically sui generis among its peers within the style, Duet is a straight-forward India Pale Ale. 

In the glass, Duet presents a head of little height, but aesthetically pleases with white creaminess and thickness. The body is orange/brown.  While more the latter than the former, it still borders near to copper.   

The aroma is dank.  No adjective more adequately describes Duet's scent, so only those who may have experienced pungent fresh marijuana bud may understand. For those missing out, it's something a bit skunky, a little metallic, slightly citrusy, and kind of wet. 

Nearly impossible to describe, but pleasing to the olfactory through and through. 

The palate is first met with spice. This serves well to cover a surprisingly influential caramel malt backbone.  

The flavor is most appropriately compared well to what cat urine smells like; oddly, a desired trait in good beer.  Underlying tones include rose pedal, and some tropical fruit.  There is a very subtle hint of vanilla, and an overall fresh green honeydew bite. 

Duet is an excellent beer.  Which, in turn, places Alpine's Nelson in some rarefied class of its own.  Duet is worthy of 4 stars and a recommendation.  But the advice from is to choose Nelson if only one of the pair may be had. 


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Noble Ale Works' Naughty Sauce

Dessert in a glass. The Frappuccino of beers.  Remarkable.  

All perfectly adequate methods of describing Noble Ale Works’ Naughty Sauce golden milk stout.

5.4% ABV

This beer was enjoyed by TheCraftBeerGuru a handful of times at the Seal Beach location of Beachwood BBQ.  That entity, Beachwood (its Seal Beach and Long Beach locations, actually), is worthy of future review here; an undertaking that will likely be thick with hyperbolic praise.

Naughty Sauce was served “on nitro” at Beachwood, though the friendly bartender explained in terms this reviewer did not fully understand that the system was not a total nitrogen system.  No special tap was observed, so that may have been what was lacking from completing the system.  In any case, the beer was as creamy in texture as any nitro-poured beer; perhaps testament to the body of the beer, more than to its delivery system.

The biography of Noble Ale Works lead brewer, Evan Price, provides evidence of how far he has come in perfecting his craft.  From humble roots brewing at BJ’s, Price is now at Noble creating wonderfully unique product like the beer subject of this review.  

“Unique” certainly fits Naughty Sauce well.  This is evident even prior to the first sip.  While a stout, this particular one is proudly atypical.   The hue is the first indication of this delightful quirkiness.  Those expecting the color or viscosity of oil are in for a surprise.   Naughty Sauce settles beautifully with the color of honey, retaining a superbly creamy head, appealing as candy to the eye (as it will also to the tongue).  

This is a beer that embraces being a golden stout... 

...And leaves exceptional lacing behind.

Lifting glass to nose, Naughty Sauce continues to please with a full-bodied aroma that is rich with roasted peanuts.  This aspect continues in the flavor profile, though the nut-trait there becomes more precisely like cashew than peanut.

BeerAdvocate indicates that “Head Brewer Evan Price worked together with Roast Master Jeff Duggan from Portola Coffee Lab” in developing Naughty Sauce.  So, the fact the the coffee bitterness is much less prevalent than anticipated is a bit of a surprise.  And, in fact, this relative absence may contribute to Naughty Sauce’s most apparent flaw.  That bitterness would have served well to balance other powerful notes, most especially Naughty Sauce’s strong lactose sweetness.  

Though the Yin of this beer’s saccharine touch lacks its bitter Yang, Naughty Sauce is not a simple beer.  The litany of qualities at play here includes a welcome hint of sourness.  This is not the sort of sour one would get from citrus fruit, but maybe something similar to aged cheese.   It is masterfully presented, adding just a subtle background characteristic to the beer.

Without a doubt, though, the feature most robust in the flavor is its roasted nut profile.  The malt backbone makes this stout reminiscent of peanut butter porters this reviewer has had in the past.  Naughty Sauce’s superior texture and enjoyable sweetness makes this far better than those, however.

TheCraftBeerGuru appreciates beers that stand out from the crowd.  While there is nothing wrong with a big Imperial Stout, or a well-crafted India Pale Ale, this heart warms when brewers strive for something distinct.  

In that regard, Noble Ale Works has achieved success.  Naughty Sauce is a special beer in the limited category of golden milk stouts shared by few others.  Of those beers that may qualify as Naughty Sauce’s peers, few have attained its exceptional quality.  

Maybe this beer is most succinctly and aptly described as a "treat", and a delicious one at that! certainly recommends Naughty Sauce.  It receives 3.5 stars (out of five).  And if you can, try it at Beachwood, a venue equally worthy of recommendation.