THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUTH:

All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

BLIND BEER TASTE TESTS (Or, BEER BATTLES: WHO HOPS TO THE TOP?)

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This installment is Part 2. You can read Part 1 by clicking HERE.

Our official slogan:
“Stop listening to your heart and your mind, and start listening to your taste buds.”

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As I type this, I’m listening to ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ from The Band’s ‘The Last Waltz’ album . . .
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Up on Cripple Creek she sends me
If I spring a leak, she mends me
And I don't have to speak, she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one


I ain’t got no time to ‘splain again what this blog bit is all ‘bout. If you ain’t caught up here, if you don’t know what a “Beer Battle” be, then descend to the bottom o’ de beer barrel and read Part 1 HERE. I can’t be bothered re-‘splainin’ it to you Miller-Come-Latelies.

“THE BEER BATTLES CONTINUE!”
(Or, “Nappy And Stephen Continue To Sacrifice Their Livers In A Search For Truth”)

Our scoring system looks like this:

A+ = “Goes up to Eleven” points (Think: ‘Spinal Beer Tap’
A = 10 points
A- = 9 points
B+ = 8 points
B = 7 points
B- = 6 points
C+ = 5 points
C = 4 points
C- = 3 points
D+ = 2 points
D = 1 point

Brother Napoleon (Nappy) and I have conducted four final General Skirmishes in an effort to skim the brewski poseurs, pretenders, and wannabes off the top, revealing the true competitors for the Semi-Final Rounds to establish the McCarthy Brothers’ consensus view of “Best Brew”.

So, here’s what happened in these last preliminary Beer Battles . . . 

TEST #8: MAY, 2012

Boulder Brewing Co., ‘HAZED & INFUSED’
Nappy: 
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B+
Total = 30 points

Anchor Brewing Co., ‘ANCHOR STEAM BEER’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B-. Round 2 = C+
Stephen:
Round 1 = C+. Round 2 = C+
Total = 21 points

Anderson Valley Brewing Co., ‘IMPERIAL IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = C-. Round 2 = C+
Total = 24 points

Big Sky Brewing Co., ‘TROUT SLAYER WHEAT ALE’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B-. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B-. Round 2 = B-
Total = 26

Post-Test Post-it Note:
HAZED & INFUSED coasted to an easy victory in what was an otherwise very weak field. I found the Anderson Valley IMPERIAL IPA much too sweet for my tastes. And our Blind Beer Taste Test totally exposed the vastly overrated reputation that San FranCrisco’s ANCHOR STEAM BEER has been feasting on for decades. In fact, ANCHOR STEAM BEER scored the least amount of points (21) ever given to a beer in our entirely objective, blind taste tests. Seeing the undeserved accolades thrown ANCHOR STEAM BEER’s way on sites like BeerAdvocate only points out the importance of taste-testing brews blindly and side-by-side with other golden elixirs.

And for anyone who thinks that these Blind Beer Taste Tests can’t really be trusted, that they are inconsistent, I want to point out that ANCHOR STEAM BEER was so obviously “a glorified Coors” that after Nappy handed it to me and I taste-tested it a second time, with eyes closed, in Round 2, I said to my Brother, “Same grade I gave it the first time.” It was so watered-down, so hop-deprived, and so obviously out of its league, that I could tell by the taste alone that this was ANCHOR STEAM BEER again. Nappy dutifully and unquestioningly recorded its second C+ from me, never asking me to identify the beer by name. He knew that I knew.

Despite winning its round with a solid 30 points, HAZED & INFUSED will not be moving on to the Semi-Finals where the competition is really stiff . . . I mean, stiff for liquids, that is.

TEST #9: MAY, 2012

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, ‘90 MINUTE IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B
Stephen:
Round 1 = B-. Round 2 = B-
Total =  26 points

Deschutes Brewery, ‘MIRROR POND PALE ALE’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B-
Stephen:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B
Total =  27 points

Odell Brewing Co., ‘ODELL IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = A-
Total =  33 points

Great Divide Brewing Co., ‘TITAN IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B-
Stephen:
Round 1 = B-. Round 2 = B
Total =  27 points

Post-Test Post-it Note:
Surprises: Hokey-Smoke! We had some surprises in this round. Nappy and I both expected MIRROR POND would fare better than it did, but the real shocker was the poor showing by Dogfish Head’s celebrated 90 MINUTE IPA. I mean, for those who are not really beer aficionados, know that 90 MINUTE IPA has a reputation for being one of the very greatest American micro-brews in existence; it is generally thought of as being on par with (or even better than) Green Flash Brewing Company’s WEST COAST IPA – legendary and expensive.

I’d previously had Dogfish Head’s 60 MINUTE IPA, but never the 90 MINUTE, which is supposed to be even better. Based solely on what I’d read about it, I fully expected 90 MINUTE IPA to utterly annihilate its competition in this round. Instead, it came in fourth out of four competitors. Well, you can lie to your mind, but your blinded taste buds can’t be fooled!

“Stop listening to your heart and your mind, and start listening to your taste buds.”

Nappy identified a semi-subtle flavor of coffee or something chocolate-like in the Dogfish Head 90 MINUTE IPA. Well, whatever that ingredient was, it turned us both off.

Although Nappy and I both already knew and liked ODELL IPA, neither of us really expected it to smash the competition like it did, while scoring a very impressive 33 points. Truthfully, although I was aware that it was a fine ale, I told Nappy before this round got underway that ODELL IPA was possibly the weak link here. Well, needless to say, ODELL IPA will be moving on to the Semi-Final Rounds. It may be an underdog, but these Blind Beer Taste Tests prove that underdogs occasionally bite the favorites right in the— uh, “brewski’s buttski”.

I still recall the very first time Nappy and I ever tasted ODELL IPA. It was November 29th, 2009, and we had it on tap at Granny’s Closet in Flagstaff, Airheadzona. I know that because I mentioned it (not by name) under the subtitle ‘THREE DOLLARS’ in ‘Sex, Tattoos & Violence R Us - #6’
I wrote this:

...with all that cold, wet, white “stuffs” on the ground, we stopped at Granny’s Closet for one beer and then turned around like Southern California born and raised wimps and drove back to Prescott, where the sun was shining and the ground was dry.

Well, the unnamed beer in that paragraph above was ODELL IPA. (That’s the kind of useless information I am able to remember, while the impotent stuffs slips outta me mind.)

TEST #10: MAY, 2012

Lagunitas Brewing Co., ‘HOP STOOPID ALE’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = A-. Round 2 = A-
Total =  33 points

Four Peaks Brewing Co., ‘HOP KNOT IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Total =  32 points

Anderson Valley Brewing Co., ‘HOP OTTIN’ IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B
Stephen:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B
Total =  29 points

Post-Test Post-it Note:
Nappy and I had both tasted HOP STOOPID before, and while I liked it and knew it was made by one of the very best breweries around today, I did not at all expect it to do so well, scoring 33 points. In fact, I thought it was so delicious (I gave it an A- in both rounds) that I’m now thinking it may be the beer to beat. It won’t surprise me if HOP STOOPID is the last beer standing.

Surprises: Neither Nappy or I had ever tried HOP KNOT before. I tossed one into the competition at the last moment; it was almost an afterthought. It’s brewed here in the Phoenix, Arizona area, and Nappy and I pretty much hate everything that is in, near, connected to, or has ever touched or even thought about Phoenix. So I figured HOP KNOT would get its AZ. kicked. Well, after scoring 32 points – B+ straight across the board from both Nappy and me in both rounds – it clearly deserves to move on to the Semi-Finals. This is a really good, hop-forward, unknown brewski that deserves to be listed amongst the better micro-beers being concocted today.

Going into Round 10, I would have said that HOP OTTIN’ was the likely favorite. It scored a respectable but unremarkable 29 points and has been dropped from future Beer Battles – “one and done”.

TEST #11: MAY, 2012

Stone Brewing Co., ‘ARROGANT BASTARD ALE’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B
Stephen:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B-
Total =  27 points

Great Divide Brewing Co., ‘NOMAD PILSNER’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B
Stephen:
Round 1 = B-. Round 2 = B-
Total =  26 points

Breckenridge Brewery, ‘REGAL PILSNER’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B
Stephen:
Round 1 = B-. Round 2 = B
Total =  28 points

Lagunitas Brewing Co., ‘IMPERIAL RED ALE’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B+
Total =  31 points

Post-Test Post-it Note:
This last general Beer Battle included a hodgepodge of different styles: two pilsners, a red ale, and a straightforward ale. In the first round, Nappy commented that there was a rather unusual flavor that he enjoyed when blindly tasting the Breckenridge REGAL PILSNER, and he gave it a B+ accordingly. In round 2, he blindly identified it again [“This is the one that has that unusual flavor I mentioned the first time.”], only this time it didn’t grab him quite so much and he lowered his grade to a B.

Surprises: Stone Brewery’s ARROGANT BASTARD ALE has a reputation far and wide as one of the really great craft brews, but Nappy and I gave it 3 B’s and a B-. That is to say, its vaunted reputation notwithstanding, ARROGANT BASTARD ALE is a basically good brew but nothing truly outstanding.

The IMPERIAL RED ALE won an easy victory here, and despite an impressive 31 point total, Nappy and I both feel that it would have no real chance of besting the brews in the upper echelon of our competition. In fact, this situation required that we conduct a powwow and hammer out a combined procedural ruling, which is as follows:

Although 31 points is impressive indeed and indicative of a true high-quality brew, in reviewing our notes, Nappy and I discovered that in the course of 11 general Beer Battles, 8 brews scored 32 points or more in their rounds. This gives us an ideal number of contestants with which to begin the Semi-Final Rounds. Therefore, we established that a minimum of 32 points scored was necessary for advancement to the next stage.

The three fine beers that are being left out of the Semi-Final Rounds despite amassing an impressive 31 points in the Beer Battle arena are: ‘BRIDGEPORT IPA’, Lagunitas ‘IMPERIAL RED ALE’, and Sierra Nevada’s ‘TORPEDO EXTRA IPA’. Sorry, boys, you fought valiantly (and in one case, victoriously) but we must say our “Goodbyes” to you. Despite being unquestionably good brews, we’re convinced that you will simply be overmatched going up against the truly A-list ales.

And so we move on to the Semi-Final Rounds in which 8 beers will go against each other in 4 head-to-head Beer Battles. From the Semi-Final Rounds, 4 winners will emerge, who will then go head-to-head in two Final Rounds. The last 2 brews remaining will then meet each other for 'The Beer Battle Championship' in which we will all find out who “Hops To The Top”.

Be watching here for the updated results next weekend. Our 8 (alphabetized) Semi-Finalists are:

BIG SKY IPA
Four Peaks Brewing Co., ‘HOP KNOT
Green Flash Brewing Co., ‘WEST COAST IPA
Lagunitas Brewing Co., ‘HOP STOOPID
Lagunitas Brewing Co., ‘LITTLE SUMPIN’ ALE
ODELL IPA
ODELL RED ALE
Prescott Brewing Co., ‘PONDEROSA IPA

These 8 Semi-Finalists represent four states: Arizona (2), California (3), Colorado (2), and Montana (1).

I just spent 60 days in the jailhouse
For the crime of having no dough
Now here I am back out on the street
For the crime of having nowhere to go

Save your neck or save your brother
Looks like it's one or the other
Oh, you don't know the shape I'm in

Yak Again Soon, Hop Heads!

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

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