Holiday Ales – 2009 Edition

Posted in ale, Seasonal on December 15, 2009 by Mick

Ahh yes….the Holidays.

The time of year when you eat, laugh and drink. Alot.

Usually, the holiday beers give you alot to offer. Full bodies, spice and usually a higher alcohol content. The breweries KNOW that youre going to be celebrating, and they do it to an aplomb.

To me, living in California, but an Upstate NY transplant, (518 represent!) doesnt really offer alot in the mire of what the holidays have to offer. Yeah, there is the black Friday sales, the attempt at making it look “snowy”, and more importantly, trying to completely get you in the spirit of the holidays.  The thing is, i have had the REAL Christmas holidays, ive had the snow, ive had the caroling, ive even had the cold, below zero wind-chill. But i take what i can get here….even if its Holiday Ales.

Anchor Steam is based in San Francisco, CA, and makes one hell of an ale. They are some of the best in the hoppier class, and easily found around the west-coast. Brewer Fritz Maytag takes special care in his beer, (as well as the Old Portrero line of whiskies) and you definitely taste it in his Christmas Ale.

Immediately, you open the bottle, and you are punched in the nose with a STRONG smell of pine and cloves. It smells as if 14 goth kids are smoking their ciggies outside in the cold forest. Pour the bottle, and its body is thick and black. The first taste knocked me off my feet. There arent enough numbers in the world to count the winter spices like nutmeg, pumpkin, clove, cinnamon, and even a deep chocolate in the flavor. And those are just the tastes that hit you off the mark. The 9.46%abv is pretty potent, but the beer is a heavy hitter, and you probably wont want more than one.

However, easier to drink is the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. Though not as much as smack in the nose, it still has the essential smells of a holiday ales. Pine, thyme, clove and nutmeg complement this one as well. Where it is different is the body. Its. So. Friggin. Easy. To. Drink! I found after four bottle of the 6.8% abv beer, i was wobbly, wondering where the hell did the four beers go? Dangerous? Yes. Worth it? Fuck yes.

Last in the list of tasted holiday ales is Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale. The name is ridiculous. I cant say it. Especially if i have had a few. The beer? A bit disappointing. Being a huge fan of their Mirror Pond, Inversion and Obsidian Stout, but this beer left me empty handed. Everything about it was a bit lackluster, but as a non-holiday beer, its decent. I think i expected more out of it because of the flavors i got out of the previous two. Its pale-aley, but it lacks the spice the other two have. At 6.7%abv, its still worth a drink or two, but i would not bust this out at a party expecting Holiday “Jubilation”.

All in all, im sure there are a ton i havent tried this year, but i took the big three, and went with it. When you do enjoy these beers, make sure you do it with the ones you love, and laughter. Have a great holiday season!

My scores:

Anchor Steam Christmas Ale – 97 out of 100

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – 96 out of 100

Deschutes Jubelale 09 – 81 of out 100

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Posted in ale, Seasonal with tags , , , on October 11, 2009 by Mick
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, 7.0 ABV

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, 7.0 ABV

I always had a pretty basic rule: Beer should taste good e3nough on its own without adding limes, berries or…..pumpkins.

Now keep in mind, im an upstate NY transplant to California, so i miss seasons. When i watch my NY Giants destroy Bay Area football teams, i think about my parents in Gloversville, NY, watching the same game with a roaring fire and the smell of a roast wafting through the house. Outside, leaves of every color imaginable falling in the crisp air.

So when i find something that reminds me of those days and the flavors, i go with it. Hence, pumpkin ale.

I am no pro at all with these seasonals, but i know what i like. I experiment, i will try anything once. Its just the theory i have to get past.  The theory that….fuck…this is a beer, that tastes like pumpkin.

Dogfish Head makes one of my favorite beers ever, the 90 minute IPA. So naturally, when i see them making a pumpkin ale, im going to try it. Initially, when i opened the bottle, and poured it into my favorite beer jar, the smell of pumpkin, nutmeg, and autumn hit me like Brendon Jacobs on a 3rd and 2 goaline smash. The taste however, isnt as smashnose. It has an initial bite of a strong ale, with a softer spicy middle and finishes smooth with the tiniest sweetness of pumpkin. Just ENOUGH to say, “Yeah…this is punkinney.”

We had the beer with a coffee-rubbed pork shoulder i slow made, slow cooking it for about 7 hours, and THIS is why this beer was made. I decided then, that this beer, like alot of my go-to Belgian ales, is to be paired with a fall food, like the pork, or my bourbon sweet potatoes.

Either way, drink this while you can, especially if youre out of your climatic element. I really enjoy this seasonal beer, and look forward to it every Sunday when im watching football and cooking a roast. Just like at home.

My score – 91 out of 100 jack-o-lanterns.

Session – Lager and Black Lager

Posted in beer, lager on October 4, 2009 by Mick

My dad, who is a master glazier (glassman in lay terms) taught me that, while not always necessary, it is pretty effective to “get stoned with two birds” er….something….

Session, to me, is a great boutiquey beer put out by the Full Sail Brewing company, and uses the stubby barrel bottles. For both the red and black versions. Lets knock them down one at a time.


Sessions original lager has always been a good picnicking beer for me…easily portable, full bodied, but refreshing enough to not be a heavy beer. Im always happy that the little 11oz lager fits in my Kreuz BBQ coozie from my trip to Austin. Im a huge fan of the “red” label lager, and find its balance to be near perfect.

sessions blackThe black on the other hand, comes in hitting heavy, as it is exactly what youd imagine it is to be. Black lager denotes dark. Its dark, its heavy, it doesnt fuck around. It doesnt taste boozey at all, but its intense flavor comes rife with nuts, bread, and has a really autumnal flavor…so perfect for this October chugging. Unlike its red brother, i can barely get through 3 or 4 before my stomach feels like i ate a loaf of bread. There are complexities to the tastes that the red doesnt have, like a strong honey flavor and a deep malt that is as refreshing as oatmeal.

Like two siblings, each os special in their own way. (But i like the red better).

My Scores:

Original Lager – 91 points

Black Lager – 88 points

BABAC 2.0 Meet Up

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4, 2009 by Mick

BABAC – Bay Area Bourbon Aficionado’s Club.

A plethora of delicious bourbon (and Tom's anger in the background)

A plethora of delicious bourbon (and Tom's anger in the background)

About three or four months ago i had the idea of getting some dudes together to do what i do daily….swill some bourbon, grill meat, talk about bourbon and eat meat. I had some pretty basic rules, bring a bottle, bring some food. Something that interests you, that youve had, or something you wanna try for the first time.

Our inaugural meeting was the first week in September, and despite the amazing weather and me grilling buffalo burgers, only 6 people were brave enough to cross the bridge from San Francisco to my house in Oakland.

This week however, hosted at Mills’ Manor, brought 20 people, a shit ton of bourbon, and some pretty amazing pork shoulder.

Mr John Mills of Mills Manor

Mr John Mills of Mills Manor

We had a pretty decent variety of bourbon, spanning from the standards like Elijah Craig 12 Year and Eagle Rare, all the way to the most badass George T Stagg’s 142 proof (71% abv). Definitely not for the weak. I now know what dragons feel like. And yeah…..we finished off Steve’s bottle.


We tried to all taste the same thing at the same time, and compare notes, but it becomes a shitshow, when well….youre drinking bourbon. Alot of bourbon. Eventually, we said “fuck it” and just had a good time. Enough bourbon, and you start talking about rat rods, secret walls and rooms in your house, and yes, of course, midget sex.

Once the night died down, we all had a pleasant afternoon buzz, and went home planning the November and December (holiday party!) BABAC meetups.

For more pictures, check my Flickr for the rest.

Where TF? House of Shields

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22, 2009 by Mick

Every once in awhile, im going ot make a post of my favorite places to swill some suds. Granted, i know Yelp exists for that, but this is more of a tribute to the Bar Hall of Fame in my mind. Or in other words,

Where the Fuck is Mick Drinking.

taken from the House of Shields website

taken from the House of Shields website

House of Shields is a San Francisco staple that opened just over 100 years ago in 1908, and continues to deliver some of the best times a Financial District happy hour can offer. Especially when you marry sassy bartendresses, heavy pours, cheap tabs and shots. Hoy.

Occasionally, they will feature live music, but if youve ever in the place, you know because of the size of the teeny upstairs, its more of a hearing performance than a seeing thing. Matter of fact, if you dont know a band is playing, you would think that they were playing live music over their music system.

Ive been going here for years, and have never had a bad time. Ive been over charged, undercharged and supercharged, through the best and worst times, but ive always walked away with a huge grin.

House of Shields is like a time machine for me….it takes me back to the Barbary Coast days, when the booze flowed as freely as the high-test blood in the denizens’ veins.

Stop by and remember one thing, if you get a shot of Fernet, offer one to the bartender.

Buck 8 Year Bourbon

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2009 by Mick

buckMy my….

What a little mystery you are, Buck. I received you as a gift from one of the members in my BABAC group (Bay Area Bourbon Aficionados Club) as a goodwill measure for missing my girlfriend’s karaoke party.

You follow?

Anyway, regardless of where this bourbon came from, i could find like NO information about it on the internet, short of “Hey, have you ever heard of Buck Bourbon?” or “Who has heard of Buck bourbon?” The picture you see is one i took in my own dining room. Why? I couldnt find a better one, er uhh…one at all, on the internet…..Its a weird one.

I cant figure it out….so bottle stats….bottle shape is akin to Four Roses…it states its 8 years old, 90 proof and some blah blah about ranch hands. I rarely pay attention to backstories on bourbon unless it has the words “Elmer T Lee” or “George T Stagg”….

My tasting notes….damn….not bad for a bourbon ive never heard of….strong buttery vanilla and a little nutiness….i take the first swig and i get hit with what reminds me of a SWEET Knob Creek. Its almost a little too sweet, but i think it just caught me off guard.

Weighing in at 90 proof, its surprisingly smooth, and tastes just as good on rocks as it does neat. The sweetness of it is at first, a little disconcerting, but it definitely aids in taking the edge off of the heat.

Im a bit surprised across the board on this little bourbon….especially where its from….SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA.

Yeah…this shit is made like a half an hour from my house. And i think its just fine.

I dont so much recommend this for a sipping bourbon, as its ok….but i think it would make a fine Manhattan or old-fashioned.

But i think that all around, if it were to enter the bourbon world, Buck is a great beginner to the other “big B names”.

My score is 84 out of 100 points.

Simpler Times Lager

Posted in beer, lager, trader joes on September 14, 2009 by Mick

stbeerAhh Trader Joes….

I spend so much money there saving money…..make sense?

I go to TJ’s once a week and do a decent amount of food shopping on some basic stuff….i dig the frozen fish, their peanut butter, English Muffin bread, and well…their booze. I partake quite a bit in the Two Buck Chuck, (Charles Shaw wine, stay tuned for the review), as well as the devlishly perfect-for-the-price, $2.99 a sixer, Simpler Times Lager….

Clocking in at a pretty hefty 6.2% alkies, this beer is more than worth the low ass $3 splurge. And, it doesnt taste too shabby!

Its like George Foreman. It is what it is. A haymaker, a jab, a block. No mystery, no backstories. Its. Just. Beer.

Initially, you get the flavor of sweet corn with the wash of a….how do i say…..QUALITY Pabst Blue Ribbon. Imagine if Pabst Blue Ribbon received a Blue Ribbon in  taste….add a little salt, a little depth, and some sweetness to round its bitterness, and boom….youre in some Simpler Times.

Now keep in mind, it isnt genius taste-ification on the palate here.Its a 50 cent can of beer that doesnt fuck around. That’s it. It’s a brawler, it’s a cowboy, it’s an outlaw. It’s a kick in your balls by a drunken karate chimp….It’s some mutha fuggin Simpler Times.

I dare say that eventhough this is a seriously cheap, and nasty beer to some, its still hipster enough to bring to a BBQ or house party and people will be like….”Sweet….you brought some of The Times.”

This beer will be cool ONLY until the moment bartenders with whitebelts named Tyler are selling it for $3 EACH in the Mission. Until then, dear readers…..partake in some of the Simpler Times.

My score is 83 out of 100 points.

Budweiser Chelada

Posted in beer on September 14, 2009 by Mick

budweiser-clamato-cheladaWe all do dumb shit.

Some people drink Budweiser….some people drink Clamato. Some people add Clamato to Budweiser. And THAT insane, schizophrenic combination is actually manufactured and SOLD as a tall boy.

I took one sip and wanted to puke everything ive ever ingested in my, yours and my Aunt Ruth’s life.

This “beer” is completely unnecessary and wrong on every level possibly ever invented. There are suffering, depressed, broken alcoholics that would refuse this. And dont even get me started on its skinny cousin, Bud Light Chelada.

Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with people….it is bullshit like this that makes me lose faith in everything.

If you see this shit walking the streets…kill it with fire.

My score – 12 out of 100…..i have to give it credit for having the balls for thinking two wrongs make a right.

Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka

Posted in vodka on September 14, 2009 by Mick

firefly-sweet-tea-vodkaLet me tell you about danger.

The type of danger where you cant see the inevitability of it all happening in a negative way. Like, you have NO idea the train will hit you. You have NO idea that Ronnie Lott is about to tackle you. You have NO idea the friend you just made at the bar is the Zodiac Killer.

Like, you have NO idea how drunk you are because Firefly was so nice to create such a refreshing drink.

Its the new thing in the booze world…sweet tea vodka. Completely mixable, or completely satisfying straight. Personally, i preferred it on ice, mixed 50/50 with some tart Santa Cruz lemonade. Some would call it a drunken Arnold Palmer.

I call it the John Daly.

In theory, it sounds like alot of these fruity, “any-flavor” vodkas on the market today. Which is fine for some. But to drink “Grape Vodka” sounds as appealing as pounding an OJ after brushing my teeth. But Firefly makes an exception. The tea is a high quality tea that is grown in the Carolinas just 4 miles from the distillery, and not flavoring. The sugar in the “sweet” part is PURE Louisiana cane sugar….not corn syrup. And the vodka…..80 proof.

Having such a delicious freshing beverage, on a hot day, with a burger in hand, man….you get about 4 of these in your system, and POW. The 80 proof catches up.


Im happy i made the discovery, and its a great drink…..just be very careful.

This tea will smack you like a donkey kick.

My score – 89 out of 100.

Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2009 by Mick

michters10So as i said in the last post, i was off celebrating my 35th birthday. Nothing huge, but it was the best times ive had in a long time with the best people i know.

And thats all you can ask for.

Even in the most perfect of moments, there are bonuses. Like, when you order a steak, gorgeous meat, perfectly rare, but the kicker is the au poivre sauce, or roquefort cheese crumbled on it. Bonuses man…..bonuses.

I had secured a spot in Bourbon and Branch for about a dozen or so of my favorite people for an intimate, quieter party. Let me tell you Bay Area folks…if you like whiskies and artisan cocktails, look no further. I could review this place alone. That’s another time.

B&B features a HUGE selection of hard to find bourbons, and since my friends knew i loved the stuff, i couldnt buy my own drink if i wanted to. My good friend Ernie and i got this Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel. I saw the bottle calling to me. Ive always wanted to try it, but ive never seen it in a bar, nor wanted to pony up the $100 for a bottle of my own.

And here is the bonus…FUCK ME. I go on alot about complexity, but seriously. Its amazing how many flavors you can get from corn and oak barrels. Immediately your nose gets hit with maple, then butterscotch. And there seems to be no heat off the nose either. Which around 90 proof (this is 91.4) things can get hot. But you can tell its going to be smooth. First sip is incredibly mapley yet floral, and finishes with spice. But its the SECOND sip that things kinda change. I dont know if its the air, or what…but it gets less mapley, and more floral, but still with a spicey ALMOST cinnamon-like finish. Its body was amazingly viscous, and definitely coated your mouth, but it wasnt at syrupy.

I think we used the phrase “orally efficient”. Heh. Well, short of how funny that sounds, its true..its a bang for the buck.

THIS is the kind of bourbon that seperates the men from the boys.

It was hard to try different bourbons after this, especially with a spoiled palate this night. But i can say this, why bother switching it up when you have a glass of bronze perfection in your hand.

The price is a little lofty and intimidating at first, but you know what? So is a mint condition 1954 Mercedes Benz 300SL gullwing.

My score – 98 out of 100.