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Fuller’s London Pride VS Fuller’s Vintage Ale

London Pride

London Pride

Overall: B-

Price: B

Taste: C

Type: Draft

4.7% ABV-33 IBU

Fuller's Vintage Ale

Vintage Ale 2009

Overall: A-

Price: B

Taste: A

Type: Bottle

8.5% ABV-38 IBU

First off, you may be wondering why I don’t have real pictures for these.  In case you haven’t read already, my phone was stolen in Cambodia and I lost a lot of information, including these pictures.  However, I’m no longer focusing on that.  So, moving on…my friends and I went to this bar/restaurant in lower Harlem called Bierkraft.  I’ll write more about it when I get a chance to explore it thoroughly, but it seemed nice enough when we went that night.  It may have been a little pricey, but I liked the general atmosphere and the wait-staff seemed very knowledgable.  I ordered a bottle of Fuller’s Vintage Ale because I had never had it before ,and I’ve always been curious.  I’ve had London Pride several times, and while it’s good, it’s nothing to write home about.  London Pride’s a solid British beer with a lot of body, but has very little in the way of unique flavor.  Anyway, I received my glass and took a sip. I thought…”Hmm…this is alright, but it’s not great.  It’s certainly not worth the 14 dollars that I paid for it, and it doesn’t really taste like it has an 8.5 percent alcohol content.  It basically…you know, sort of tastes like London Pride.”  And that’s when the waiter walked back over.  He apologized and told me that he had noticed they had sent me a regular London Pride (not the Vintage Ale), and he was perturbed.  He let me keep the beer for free, and brought me the Vintage Ale.  It suddenly became very obvious how he could tell.  The London Pride came in a Shaker Glass by itself,  while the Vintage Ale came in a Tulip Glass with the bottle and the box.   I thought, “Awesome, now a chance to compare”.  And boy…it is a huge difference.  Where London Pride tastes good and hearty, Vintage Ale is bold, boozy, and almost Belgian.  My friends who tasted the Vintage also admired it greatly.  It’s got a lot of character, and doesn’t taste anything like Fuller’s usual fair.  Both beers pour a reddish brown, but Vintage Ale is almost a deep amber, with a “fuller” head.  On tasting, Vintage has a lot going on, with hints of deep wood, toffee, butterscotch, and even some light citrus hops. I really enjoyed the simplicity of London Pride, but the complexities of the Vintage Ale won out.  I would thoroughly recommend the pair to anyone adventurous enough to take them on.  If you’ve had a Fuller’s London Pride before, but were less than impressed, definitely try the Vintage.  It’s one of the best British beers I’ve ever had.  And if you haven’t had a London Pride before, try one.  It’s a standard of British Brewing, like Newcastle and Boddington’s.  And if you hate them both, you can always blame me.  I’m willing to take on that responsibility.

In Conclusion: Both worth trying, though I really like the Vintage Ale.  Try it if you get the opportunity, regardless of price.  It’s a great beer that must be experienced, especially by those who love strong English ales.

Food Pairings (London Pride): Chewy, hearty meats.  Game Meats, Meatloaf, and Chutney.

Food Pairings (Vintage Ale): Really fatty and savory meats.  Grilled Lamb, Kidney, and Liver.

“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”

-Charles Bukowski

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Kona-Pipeline Porter

Kona Porter

Overall: B

Price: B

Taste: B

Type: 12 oz Bottle

5.4% ABV-23 IBU

Oh man…Kona.  I love Kona brewing company.  Well, I love them now, having been to Kona, HI and experienced the wonder that is their brewery and brewpub. Based on Longboard (their most readily available brew), I don’t think I would have even liked them.  It’s not that Longboard is a terrible beer, it’s just very bland.  But anyway, let’s talk about this Porter. I think the Coffee Porter may be the only widely available example of what Kona does so well at their brewery.  They take local ingredients from Hawaii and use them to create one of a kind beers, whether that’s a yeast strain that only grows in lava fields or an imperial stoudt drowned in dark malts and kona coffee.  This porter shows off a little of that artistic flair. The beer pours a purplish brown with a light brown head.  It’s got full notes of chocolate, toffee, prunes, a little hops, and a lot of malt, but it’s especially dominated by that fresh Kona coffee taste.  If you’re a stout or porter drinker who really likes coffee, this is a great option for the price  (about 10 dollars a six pack).  It’s not a perfect porter by any means, but if you haven’t tried Kona, this is a good introduction.  However, they still have way better options available at the Brewery in Hawaii, and I wonder why they don’t release some of those on special occasions.  It would expand their consumer base, and promote the true quality and depth of the brewery.  For now, this is the best we’ve got.

In Conclusion: A great introduction to what Kona has to offer.  Not the best porter in America, but pretty unique.  If you’re a coffee drinker who dabbles in darker beers, this might be a nice introduction to the Porter style.

Food Pairing: Cheesecake, Creme Brulee, Fruit Tarts, and Strawberries with cream.  Anything fruity, creamy, and sweet.

Bart, a woman is like beer. They look good, they smell good, and you’d step over your own mother just to get one!

-Homer Simpson

Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage Ale-Brewed by Unibroue

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale

Overall: A

Price: A+

Taste: B+

Type: 25 oz Bottle

9% ABV-0 IBU

When I spotted this beer at Trader Joe’s, I had a minor brain spasm, “A 9% Belgian Dark Ale on Lees.  That sounds like an Unibroue.  It can’t be Unibroue.  It’s 5 dollars. What’s that say on the back?  Wait…It IS an Unibroue.” Apparently Trader Joe’s does this every year.  But I should start by saying, I’m not sure it’s really quite as good as a regular Unibroue.  While it was certainly made by Unibroue at their brewery, you get the feeling their heart wasn’t entirely in it.  It’s not quite as refined as their other beers. Then again, it’s much cheaper.   5 dollars, for a 25 oz bottle of 9 percent Belgian dark ale? That’s kind of ridiculous.    It’s almost half the price of La Fin Du Mone, Don De Dieu, or any of the regular Unibroues.  And the taste isn’t bad, it’s actually very good.  Deep malt, with belgian yeasts, hints of dark fruit and caramel.  It pours a dark brown with a thick head. It’s just a little thin at the end. It’s the difference between a 12 year and 18 year old scotch.  This beer is still really good, by any standard of craft brewing, but when you’ve tasted the perfection that is Unibroue’s line of Canadian Belgians, I just don’t think this quite makes the cut.  All that being said, they have a different beer every year, so it’s always worth trying.  And for this price, I’d say it’s worth having around as a drinking beer whenever a friend comes to visit.

In Conclusion: I would thoroughly recommend this beer.  I think Trader Joe’s and Unibroue have done a wonderful thing here.  They’ve made a classy real Belgian that’s affordable and accessible.  I only wish it wasn’t just a holiday treat.

Food Pairing:  Baked Ham, Roasted Duck, or Quail, with grilled or baked vegetables.

On a side note, I wonder if this is what Ommegang’s Game of Thrones beers (read more in separate article) are going to be like?   I’d be ok with that.

“Beer was not made to be moralized about, but to be drunk.” 

– Theodore Maynard

Mikkeller’s 1000 IBUs-An Imperial IPA

MIkeller's 1000 IBU

Overall: C+

Price: D-

Taste: A

Type: 12 oz Bottle

9.6% ABV-1000 IBU

I’ve been writing about too many imperial IPAs.  I may have said this before.  I’m a hop-head.  I’ve confessed.  Now indulge me.  I was out one night in late October and I stumbled upon this novelty.  I thought to myself, “1000 IBUs?  How can anything be that bitter?”  Well, I have the answer…it can’t.  Like many triple IPAs, there’s a point of hop concentration where the tongue can’t absorb any more resin.  The beer can contain as many hops as the brewer wants to put in, but it doesn’t really matter after about 100 IBUs (please write in if you feel differently).  However, I do find that occasionally there are wonderful flavors in these IPAs from the beta resins at these high levels.   But let’s get back to the story.  I wanted this beer.  I had to at least TRY it, even though it was really expensive (I’ll get back to that later).  Mikkeller, a small gypsy brewery, has become one of the most renowned breweries in Europe for a reason, and they specialize in oddities like this.  I’m a huge IPA fan (not to overstate the obvious), and this was one novelty I couldn’t avoid.   Turns out, this beer is surprisingly drinkable.  It’s light, hoppy, and actually, very good.  It pours a golden orange, with a medium head.  My friend told me it would annihilate my taste buds, but it didn’t.  Sure, you can taste big citrus and piney hops, but it levels out and turns into a delectable treat, offering a smooth golden after taste.  This isn’t the best imperial IPA of all time, but with what Mikkeller did to this crazy experiment, it amazes me to say it might be in the top 5.  With Mikkeller’s odd history of unique brews, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.  HOWEVER…and that’s a big however…the fantasy ends there.  The beer costs between thirteen and sixteen dollars for a 12 oz.  That’s absurd.  I don’t care if there’s a little hop dragon breathing liquid resin into my beer, it isn’t worth that price.  1000 IBUs nearly fails in price, but redeems itself for being a singularity…an anomaly…. The Great White Buffalo.  And for that, it might be worth trying, at any price.

In Conclusion: A great novelty beer.  If you have the money and the idea entices you, I’d say try it, but know that it’s going to be a one and off because of the price tag.

Food Pairing: Spicy and savory foods with cream.  Falafel and Fajitas would be great.

“This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption…Beer.

-Friar Tuck, Robin Hood-Prince of Thieves

Unibroue’s Don De Dieu-A Belgian Strong Pale Ale

Don De Dieu

Overall: A-

Price: B

Taste: A

Type: 12oz Bottle

9% ABV-10.5 IBU

Don De Dieu was “commissioned by the King of France to pursue, by the way of the great Canadian waterway, the exploration of this vast and inhospitable land called America”, or says Unibroue.  With this beer, Unibroue could easily continue to explore and expand their share of the North American beer market.  While La Fin Du Monde is probably their best known ale, Unibroue’s Don De Dieu and Trois Pistoles come in as close seconds.    Unibroue have proven themselves consistent beyond belief, and this beer provides another Canadian treat for Belgian fans across America.  It pours a golden pale amber.  Despite being darker then you might expect for a pale ale, the creamy yeasts dominate the darker flavors.  It’s slightly acidic, but the finish is so clean you won’t remember it.  A very drinkable strong ale, thought you might want to take it slow with this one, because after two or three you’ll be gone.  Four packs are 10 to 15 dollars.  That’s not bad considering the outstanding quality and consistency of the brew.  Unibroue is definitely one of the best breweries in North America, and after you have a Don De Dieu, I think you’ll agee.

In Conclusion: A great beer for a decent price, for all occasions when a Belgian Strong Ale is appropriate.  A lighter, hoppier alternative to heavier creamier Dark Ales, Tripels, and Quads.

Food Pairing: All kinds of savory poultry.  Quail, Duck, and Roasted Chicken.  A great beer for large holiday feasts with friends and family.

I drink to make other people interesting.
-George Jean Nathan

Founders-Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale

Overall: B

Price: B+

Taste: B-

Type: Bottle

8.5% ABV-50 IBU

First off, if you don’t like Scotch style ales, you won’t like this.  And if you haven’t tried a Founders before, this isn’t a good place to start.  This beer is pretty readily available now, and I don’t think it really represents the style or Founder’s.  It’s not a terrible beer, it just has some odd notes in the bitterness which usually balance out in a traditional Scotch ale.  There are some wonderful citrus hops, especially orange, and spice notes of chesnut and hazelnut.  The beer pours a little cloudy, a deep red with brown amber edges.  It’s got a smooth start, and a bitter finish, but it’s missing something in the middle.  It’s missing real passion.  One friend, who had never had a Scotch ale before, said, “This beer tastes like blood.”  I’m not sure what she meant by that, but I don’t think it was good.  BUT, if you love Scotch ales, this is a fanastic deal for about 12 or 13 dollars a six pack.   It’s a great beer for those who want a bitter, hoppy, strong Scotch that’s drinkable and affordable.  I’m just not that into this.

Conclusion:  Great price, but only for those who love Scotch ales.  I don’t think this is Founder’s best work.  It needs to be more balanced.

Food Pairing: Corned Beef or Pastrami, Kidneys, and Haggis (obviously).

What event is more awfully important to an English colony than the erection of its first brewhouse?

-Reverend Sidney Smith

Sixpoint-Resin-Double IPA

Overall: A-

Price: B+

Taste: A

Type: Can

9.1% ABV-103 IBU

Pours a hazy golden orange, with a light amber tint, like a sunset in the forest.  The aromas are lemon, orange peel, and peach.  I expected strong hops, but the taste is surprisingly smooth, making this an easily drinkable IPA.  It’s also a pretty good price, at ten dollars for a four pack of 12 ounces.  I’d put it on par with Dogfish Head 90 minute, as a solid example of the American IPA.  If you like Sixpoint’s Bengali Tiger, this is the next step up.  I have to say though, that in some ways, the hops are stronger in Bengali.  Don’t be fooled though, this is still an imperial IPA, just without the bitter punch.  I love Sixpoint for maintaining  the complexity and strength of the best.  This is the perfect IPA for people looking for complex hop taste, without the extreme bitterness associated with imperials.  The smooth creamy flavor takes over after the complex bitterness, and on multiple sips, the hops are just a joyous after thought.  I think Sixpoint should make more doubles out of their normal beers (especially a double wit based on the Crisp).

In Conclusion:  For people who are looking for a complex IPA, without the extreme bitterness.  Wonderful light lemon notes, very drinkable.

Food Pairing: Hearty and Spicy foods, especially Spicy Indian, Mackeral, and Chorizo.

Whiskey and Beer are a man’s worst enemies… but the man that runs away from his enemies is a coward!

– Zeca Pagodinho