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Friday, March 8, 2013

Sacramento Beer Week 2013 :: Beer Tasting Notes

Hers and His tasting glasses.
Sacramento Beer Week has come and gone, but the memories will last forever. At least the ones I can remember in the first place... just kidding! No but really, I am very proud of myself for managing my Beer Week so that I didn't once get sloshed or have a hangover. I am all about enjoying craft beer and having a great time, but to truly enjoy a craft beer, you need to be coherent. Plus, hangovers suck and I have a kid, so I made a conscious effort to stay in the "comfortably buzzed" zone instead of the "what the f*ck did we do last night" zone (like when we went to Oktoberfest... my head still hurts just thinking about that next morning).

So here's my beer week, and the resulting tasting notes. In a nutshell, it was AMAZING.

You already know what we did on Friday... and I'm sure you've read my tasting notes on the Knee Deep in Beer Week 2013 Belgo American Imperial IPA collaboration between Track 7 & Knee Deep Brewing... and I'm sure you've watched the awesome "I am a Craft Beer Drinker" video that I found on YouTube.... so I'll just move on to the rest of the week....

It all started with a MONKEY KNIFE FIGHT! 
*insert epic fighting music here*

Sorry, but Monkey Knife Fight just sounds so bitchin'. The beer is awesome as well - Monkey Knife Fight is a very solid Pale Ale from Sacramento's own Rubicon Brewing, and is really a prime example of a go-to pale ale that is accessible to any beer drinker (it would be a great first craft beer for a newbie). It's very easy drinking at 4.5% ABV. Rubicon makes consistently good beers, and they just celebrated their 25th anniversary in Sacramento. Congrats to them!

Jim and I worked the Rubicon and Auburn Ale House tables at the Make A Wish Foundation Winter Wine and Food Fest (which was SUPER swanky) on Saturday, February 23, and poured Rubicon's MKF and Irish Red Ale, along with 3 selections from Auburn Ale House. We ate lots of Humboldt Fog cheese too *drool* which is some seriously decadent aged goat cheese.

On Sunday we went to The Shack (again) to eat more Humboldt Fog cheese on top of a beautiful Benedict, paired with North Coast's 7.9% ABV Le Merle saison. The Benedict was unbelievably delicious and the Le Merle paired beautifully - the pale earthy malts and very light citrusy hops hiding at the edges alongside the buttery hollandaise and rich cheese... so mouthwateringly amazing. We also got hooked up with a sip of Westvleteren XII Quadrupel (the American import bottle), which was very sweet and dense, full of chocolatey malt, figgy dark fruits, brown sugar, and warm alcohol. Wish I could have had a couple more sips to really get a feel for the underlying flavors. It made us start jonesin' for the Westvleterens that Jim brought home from Belgium and have been sitting comfortably in our beer cellar... soon, very soon...

On Monday, I had the good fortune of happening upon the coveted Pliny the Younger, aka PTY, which I thought was VERY good, but I still don't know if I'd have stood in line for it... But it really is borderline perfection: a perfectly clear golden color and lingering white fluffy cloud of foam, a nose and flavor full of floral, citrusy sweet hops and a pleasant crispness, and extremely well balanced, making it very easy drinking. It's a pretty hefty 10.8% this year, but you really can't tell based on the flavor. It's the kind of IPA I'd be thrilled to drink on a regular basis because the hop flavor is so smooth (note: this is a bold statement coming from me given the fact that I'm essentially the opposite of a Hop Head), and it's really a shame that it's so limited.

At home that night, inspired to see what other beers may be similar to PTY, we sampled Drake's Hopocalypse Double IPA. My hubby thought that Hopocalypse was damn similar to PTY. The hop flavor is very clean, and it has a sweetness that balances out the piney/tangerine hop bite, however the bite still shines through. This is a stellar DIPA at 9.25% ABV.
We also tried Simtra Triple IPA from Knee Deep, which has a tangy citrus hop bite that is much more bitter than PTY, and less resinous. It does have some sweetness to balance it out, but the bitterness still wins. Be careful, this is a dangerous 11.25% ABV. I am impressed by Knee Deep's offerings thus far.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jim went to Rubicon to try Friend of the Devil, a collaboration between Rubicon and Two Rivers Cider. Belgian blond + apple cider = right up my alley! He texted me a photo (above, made pretty with my lovely photo app Pixlr Express), and said, "Tastes like you would think...mixing beer and apple cider with hints of white wine." Needless to say, as I sat at my desk working, I was more than jealous that he got to taste it before me. 6.9% ABV.

That night, we tried Dust Bowl's Hops of Wrath IPA and Mojo Risin' from Boulder. Hops of Wrath was very well balanced; a casual malty sweetness and a bitter grapefruity hop bite really complemented each other. This is a very fine IPA, weighing in at 6.6% ABV. Super drinkable.
Boulder's Mojo Risin' Double IPA is a golden orange beauty that weighs in at a super hefty at 10% ABV. Pretty well balanced orange-citrus and lightly sweet hop bomb, but be careful of that ABV!

Now that I'm writing all of this down, I am realizing that my darling husband bogarted beer week with IPAs... but that's ok, I'll just remember that for next beer week, and I'll bombard him with Belgians. *grin*

On Wednesday night we hit up one of our very favorite burger joints, Flaming Grill, to try Band of Gypsies Belgian Tramp, a 10.5% ABV organic Belgian quad brewed with house-made candy sugar, California Mission figs, raisins and dates. I swear, the very first flavor that hit me was sweet soy sauce. Weird, eh? But I swear, it's true. Once I got past that weird impression, I tasted burnt roasty malts, sweet molasses, figs and dark fruit, and sour Belgian yeast. Super heavy and complex - definitely a sipping beer. Members of the Band of Gypsies Collaboration Beer Project include Bison Organic Beer, Calicraft Brewing, Highwater Brewing, Lucky Hand, Oakland Brewing, Pacific Brew Labs, Triple Voodoo & Uncommon Brewers. I'm loving all of these awesome collaborations!
We also had Boulder's Honey of a Saison, which had flavors of dark wildflower honey, sour Belgian yeast and earthy straw. I especially loved the honey + Belgian sour flavor. Really tasty combo! This beer is no joke at 11.5% ABV - you can't even taste the alcohol, so be careful, it's a creeper. Very cool beer.

When we got home, Jim decided to crack open one of the beers that I had gotten him for Valentine's Day: Uinta Brewing's 9.5% ABV Detour DIPA. Piney and grapefruity hops, with a dryness that sticks to the tongue. Not a stunner, but pretty good.

Do you see a cowboy in my beer? I do.
When I got home from work on Thursday, I spied 4 bottles of Gael-e-bration Ale, a special ale brewed by Moylan's in honor of my beloved alma mater, Saint Mary's College of California. GO GAELS! This is a very straightforward, easy drinking, clean and crisp, lightly hopped 5.4% ABV ultra pale ale - that's what I'd call it, anyway, since it's so light.

Did I mention that my hubby drove about 140 miles round trip to buy this unbelievably thoughtful surprise for me? He's the best. And yes, gifts in this house are usually beery. *swoon*

Friday came, and I wanted something sweet and NOT hoppy. One of my new favorites is Orange Avenue Wit by Coronado Brewing. What a beautiful California wit! At 5.2% ABV, this is a very sessionable summer beer, and I expect to be drinking it a lot in the coming months. This beer is clearly made with REAL orange peel, not extract. The light wheat malts are buoyed by a fresh citrus cloud and hints of coriander. Very mellow, very friendly. Plus I really love the design on the bottle.

Saturday and Sunday require a wholly separate post... this one has gotten long enough as it is! So stay tuned: Capital Beer Fest and Sacramento Beer Train details, coming soon!

Apologies that it took so long for me to report all of my Beer Week fun, but it's been a definite work in progress trying to piece together images from my phone, camera(s), notes on my calendar, handwritten notes on napkins/scraps of paper in my purse, notes on Instagram and Untappd... whew, so glad to finally have this all recorded in one place!



{image courtesy of}
Hashtags :: #sacbeerweek #SBW2013 #craftbeer #locallove

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