Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 23, 2011

Beer: Claymore Scotch Ale, Great Divide Brewing Company

Today's tasty, cold beverage comes from Great Divide Brewing Co., a fantastic brewery in Denver. In 2008, BeerAdvocate (one of the leading beer review sites, and my personal favorite) ranked them as the 7th best brewery in the world. Great Divide adamantly believes in brewing strong beers, which are characterized as having 7% alcohol or greater. Founder Brian Dunn had this to say about his creations:

"Brewers like to sell the beer that they like to drink...and as people who can and do drink beer all day long, it’s obviously more interesting for us to drink big beers that are long on flavor and complexity."

They have won a lot of awards since 1994...However, the beer with which I decided to start my relationship with Great Divide hasn't won a single trophy.

Claymore Scotch Ale is, well, a scotch ale - otherwise known as a "wee heavy." As most scotch ales are supposed to, my Claymore poured deep copper. I stuck my nose in the glass and smelled a lot of sweetness, almost as if I had poured a porter. In my first taste I wasn't sure what to think of it. It felt like a mix between beer and scotch, blech! I decided to let it sit a bit and warm up.

When I came back to it about 10 minutes later, it had a fantastic smoothness to it. It seemed a bit thin to me, but I certainly enjoyed the malts and boozyness. By the end of my glass, I could really feel the warmth from the alcohol - as if I had been drinking a spirit rather than a beer. Overall, I enjoyed it, but this isn't really a style of beer that I'd find myself purchasing on a regular basis.


This has to be one of the best band names I've ever seen. Seriously? Fitz and The Tantrums? Wow.

Listening to this song just feels like a guilty pleasure. Very classic sound and an 80s look from the lead singer. Enjoy "Money Grabber."

Friday, April 22, 2011

April 19, 2011

Beer: Ace of Spades, Hopworks Urban Brewery

HUB is often one of the forgotten breweries in Portland. Everything is organic and completely renewable, making it Portland's first eco-brewpub. I've tried a HUB beer before, but I don't recall the name. I have their 7-Grain Survival Stout aging in the cellar.

I'd heard of Ace of Spades, but nothing more than the name. Then, some of the guys at work from the Portland Timbers mentioned how incredible it was. When I spotted it in a store, I had to give it a go.

Ace of Spades poured amber with a 1/2 finger head and minor lacing. Using the ol' olfactory, I could detect the hops and malt - very floral. The taste was out of this world! As an Imperial IPA, I expected a lot of hops flavor. Not only did I get that, but I my palate was greeted by a whole host of other flavors that really mellowed out the hops. Was it strong? Yes, but certainly not overpowering at all. It was really hard to drink this slowly because it tasted so dang good. The most amazing thing about Ace of Spades was how FRESH it was. My bottle had been sitting for a little over a month, and it tasted like it was the first drink from a freshly-tapped keg.

Overall, Ace of Spades is easily one of my favorite beers ever. It's a seasonal, so it'll be difficult to find. I picked up 2 more bottles before they're gone for the year. Search this one out, and enjoy one of the freshest, most flavorful drinks you've ever had.


Today's offering is "Losers" by The Belle Brigade, a brother-sister combo from L.A. that has recently hit the scene. This is the first song from them that I heard, so I had to use this as the example. I dare you not to compare their vocal delivery to Paul Simon.


April 16, 2011

Beer: DAGDA Strong Irish Red Ale, New Old Lompoc Brewery

I hate doing these types of posts, but I feel a responsibility to tell the darn, honest truth. Yuck.

Double yuck.

Eww, even.

Let me preface this review by saying that New Old Lompoc is one of my favorite breweries in the area. C-Note, and some of their other beers are really flavorful and well-balanced. I encourage anyone to pick some up.

But not DAGDA.

This was Lompoc's Spring/St. Patrick's Day/Seasonal release, which is probably the best news because it means this stuff isn't available all year round for unassuming and unsuspecting drinkers. DAGDA poured red with a lot of foam. The best way I can describe the taste is boggy. It's quirky. It's so hard to categorize because I've never tasted anything like it. I thought it started to taste better, but I'm pretty sure I was imagining things.

I'm not the biggest fan of red ales, but I've certainly enjoyed some. I was close to almost dumping this one out into the sink. I suppose I can't complain. Just do yourself favor and steer clear of this one.


"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is one of the best songs of all time. It has a fantastic solo by Eric Clapton and the deft songwriting of the mysterious one, George Harrison.

In 2004, George was inducted posthumously in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As a tribute, several musicians played this classic in remembrance of the man who created one of my favorite albums, All Things Must Pass. The star-studded lineup includes Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison...and Prince. Watch as Prince brings the house down with what might be the best solo ever on this particular song.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April 13, 2011

Beer: AleSmith X, AleSmith Brewing Company

AleSmith is a microbrewery from San Diego with a great reputation amongst beer aficionados. All of their beers are bottle-conditioned, and none of them come in the standard 12oz bottle.

I first heard about AleSmith because of their highly famed Speedway Stout, which is ranked as one of the best stouts in the country (and a great candidate for aging). I actually found a Speedway at a Market of Choice, and figured this one couldn't be too bad either.

X stands for Extra Pale Ale. My bomber poured very clear and golden with a lot of carbonation. I found it a little thin as far as mouth feel goes, but that was to be expected with an American Pale Ale. However, the taste was as sweet and powerful as that of a dark porter or stout. I closed my eyes and ignored the clarity of my beverage, focusing on all the flavors that were melding. It was quite an interesting experience. I think I need to try this one again just to figure out what exactly was going on.


Today's musical offering will be from an Oregon band that I was introduced to by my sister. Apparently she saw them in 2007 in Salem, but completely forgot about it. They are called Typhoon....and I like them a lot.

April 11, 2011

Beer: Lagunitas IPA, Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Lagunitas is a great brewery down in Petaluma, CA that always comes out with some tasty stuff. They are known for putting a unique spin on traditional beer styles, and of course, their text/stories on the bottles. I was first introduced to Lagunitas by my dad, and I've been a fan ever since.

The flagship of the company is the Lagunitas IPA, which is actually the #1 selling IPA in the state of California. The text on the bottle reads:

"Thanks for choosing to spend the next few minutes with this special homicidally hoppy ale. Savor the moment as the raging hop character engages the Imperial Qualities of the Malt Foundation in mortal combat on the battlefield of your palate!"

Lagunitas IPA pours copper with a thin, white head and some lacing. The flavor and mouth-feel are exactly what an IPA should be - not overpowering. Everything is extremely well-balanced, making this not only a supremely drinkable beer, but a go-to. The bouquet and taste are all hops, but nothing that would make a fan of lighter brews cry foul. Grapefruit and pine notes from the hops take center stage.

This is one of my favorite IPAs, and that's a good thing because it is available almost anywhere.


Have you heard of Clem Snide? No? You should have. No, that's not someone's name, it's the name of a band led by Eef Barzelay. Yes, that IS someone's name.

Listen to this solo set by Eef from NPR's Tiny Desk Concert Series. While you're at it, check out the rest of this series. Fascinating performances.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 9, 2011

Beer: 90 Minute IPA, Dogfish Head Brewery

Dogfish Head is one of those breweries that really likes to push the envelope. They make A LOT of different types of beer, often with strange, non-standard ingredients from all over the world. They've become so famous for the diversity of inputs and extreme beers that they were featured on a Discovery Channel program entitled Brew Masters. Basically, if you want to try a style of beer you've never heard of, or a beer with ingredients you wouldn't think of (green raisins, spirulina, crystalized ginger, bismati rice or water from Antarctica anyone?), then Dogfish Head is your type of brewery.

For those of you that like to stick to more traditional paths on your journey of brewskis, don't fret. Dogfish Head's signature beers are their IPA line, 60 Minute, 90 Minute and 120 Minute IPAs. The names refer to the length of the boil time of the wort in which the hops are continuously added. The longer hops are boiled, the more hop isomerization takes place, and the more bitterness is imparted to the beer. Needless to say, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA is a rare beast that costs a pretty penny when it is released. I've never seen it. Thankfully, 60 Minute and 90 Minute are readily available around here.

My bottle poured a dark amber with a thick head. I found this beer aggressively hoppy up-front, and rather boozy. The bitterness kind of takes over and destroys some other flavors (pine and honey?) that I think could have stolen the show. I don't think this one deserves all the hype, but I'd certainly still be interested in the 120 Minute. Pliny The Elder is a much better IPA, of course, but I think that even Racer 5 from Bear Republic is a better drink. I could have a 90 Minute every now and then, but by no means would this be my go-to IPA.


I was checking out some great concerts that will be happening here soon (Glen Hansard and Eddie Vedder, Iron and Wine w/ Marketa Irglova), and I paused when I saw the name of one of the openers. You know when you hear a word or a topic for the first time, and then you see it everywhere? Well, that's what happened today.

I was listening to an interview of Dave Matthews Band with a Seattle radio station and he mentioned an up-and-coming band called The Head and The Heart. He was very impressed with their songwriting and joked about stealing ideas from them. I didn't pay much attention to it. Then, when I was looking at the concerts, I saw their name as an opener. I decided to take the bait and do a quick YouTube search of them. Um...worth it.

I'm quickly falling in love with their style, and I can't wait to explore their catalog a bit more. For now, here's "Lost In My Mind", but I encourage you to check out their other songs from this radio studio show.

April 7, 2011

Beer: Anchor Steam Beer, Anchor Brewing Company

Today's brew for BBB is one that I'd heard in passing many times but never had a chance to try. Heck, I'd never even seen it. Now that I'm in Portland, I see this beer, and many others by Anchor, at pretty much every store.

Anchor is a famous San Francisco brewery that has virtually handmade their beer since 1896 in the traditional style. This excerpt from their website describes Anchor Steam Beer:

"Anchor Steam derives its unusual name from the 19th century when "steam" seems to have been a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast of America under primitive conditions and without ice. The brewing methods of those days are a mystery and, although there are many theories, no one can say with certainty why the word "steam" came to be associated with beer. For many decades Anchor alone has used this quaint name for its unique beer. In modern times, "Steam" has become a trademark of Anchor Brewing."

Anchor Steam is known as a California Common or Steam Beer, which is 100% American. If you ever have another beer that calls itself a "steam beer," then they're breaking the law. Anchor Brewing has a trademark on the term, so all other beers of the same style must go by the name of "California Common."

My particular bottle this evening poured bronze/copper with a thick head. I taste some light hops, a great sourdough breadiness and some citrus. It has a fantastic medium body that is balanced all-around. This American classic comes in a funky bottle with an old school label. There's a reason why people still imbibe with Anchor Steam. I can't think of a better session beer, or a go-to drink that's perfect for any occasion. I definitely recommend giving it a try if you find some, and I'm willing to bet it will make its way into your rotation.


Today's musical offering is something I'm willing to bet that none of you have heard. The group name is Tribe of Heaven, a short-lived duo of Mark Roebuck and Dave Matthews (yes, that Dave Matthews) in 1989. The album is practically impossible to pick up, but thanks to Youtube there are a few accessible songs. I've heard most of the album and really dig it. For those of you that know me well, this won't be a surprise to you since I love almost everything ever done by Dave. One of my favorites off this album is a cover of U2's "In God's Country," but I'll share a Tribe of Heaven original - "Imagine We Were." Enjoy.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 5, 2011

Beer: Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing

While still technically a microbrewery, Sierra Nevada Brewing is the 6th-largest brewery in the United States and the 2nd-best selling craft beer behind Samuel Adams. Just because they are big, however, doesn't mean they don't make some tasty brew.

I had Bigfoot a couple of weeks ago and decided I needed to post about it now. As I mentioned in a previous post, most stouts and barleywines can be aged. Aging a beer doesn't make it better, just different. Time allows different flavors to rise up and others to die back, which is why it is generally recommended to buy two bottles of whatever you're going to age. If you don't try one first, how are you going to know how aging changed it?

Now, despite the name, a barleywine is NOT a wine. BeerAdvocate, one of the leading websites on beer rankings and education, has this to say about barleywines:

"Despite its name, a Barleywine (or Barley Wine) is very much a beer, albeit a very strong and often intense beer! In fact, it's one of the strongest of the beer styles. Lively and fruity, sometimes sweet, sometimes bittersweet, but always alcoholic. A brew of this strength and complexity can be a challenge to the palate. Expect anything from an amber to dark brown colored beer, with aromas ranging from intense fruits to intense hops. Body is typically thick, alcohol will definitely be perceived, and flavors can range from dominant fruits to palate smacking, resiny hops.

English varieties are quite different from the American efforts, what sets them apart is usually the American versions are insanely hopped to make for a more bitter and hop flavored brew, typically using American high alpha oil hops. English versions tend to be more rounded and balanced between malt and hops, with a slightly lower alcohol content, though this is not always the case.

Most Barleywines can be cellared for years and typically age like wine."

Based on that review, it may be easy to ascertain that barleywines are polarizing. There are just as many people who hate them as those who love them. My first barleywine experience was a different brew that will be reviewed later. Bigfoot was my 2nd.

Bigfoot poured a deep amber with a hint of red, and featured a thick and lasting head and lots of lacing. The aroma was very piney, fruity and sweet. The taste was very fresh for a 9.6% alcohol beer, and although I generally don't like bitter hops, it was incredibly smooth. The alcohol is noticeable later on, and it really warms you up. I drank this one with dinner and have another aging. I might have to buy more of this mythical beast because it's a seasonal, relatively cheap, and delicious. I recommend!


Newcomer Adele has become a sensation with her most recent album, especially the song "Rolling In The Deep." I'm definitely a fan of the power and emotion in the song, but her version isn't even my favorite. R&B mastermind John Legend quickly made a cover sans instruments. The combination of voices and his soul make it feel almost like a spiritual. The first video posted is the original Adele version, followed by the fabulous John Legend version.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 3, 2011

Beer: The Abyss, Deschutes Brewery

The Abyss is an Imperial Stout that is oak-aged with licorice and molasses. It's released once a year, and when it's gone...it's gone. Each year's Abyss is different than the year before because of the aging.

When it's in season, The Abyss is one of the hardest beers to find. I called around to places in the city, and luckily I found a Market of Choice with a few cases left. Their buyer was really excited that I called because she's a big fan of The Abyss. I picked up two bottles - one to have now and one to age.

I've had probably 4 or 5 bottles of The Abyss before, but none from this year's batch. It's feels great to own such a limited beer and be able to judge the differences over time. Everything else with The Abyss however is consistent over time: the label, the wax covering the cap, the excitement.

The Abyss pours like its name, deep and pitch black. No light escapes. Mine had a creamy, 1-finger, tan head. At this point, it should be obvious to anyone holding the glass that it is a serious beer. Surprisingly, the aroma is rather mellow. The taste is full of chocolate, coffee, roasted nuts and oak. The Abyss also has a high alcohol content, so this one's definitely a sipper. Not only do I recommend it, but it's one of my all-time favorites. I'd love to go taste it from the tap on release day sometime.


I feel like a dark and mysterious beer needs to be paired with some music by a dark and mysterious man. Hmm....how about some Tom Waits? A couple of weeks ago I was driving from Eugene to Portland late at night. I was almost to Portland when traffic got blocked up because of an accident and I sat for an hour. I turned on the radio and heard this song. I've never heard anything like it, but I find it fascinating. That night I heard the studio version, but I'm going to post both that and a live version. Listen to the studio one first, but I recommend watching the live one as well just to get a feel for where that voice comes from.

April 1, 2011

Beer: Racer 5 IPA, Bear Republic Brewery

Racer 5 is a very hoppy IPA, but a very easy drink. It's definitely not as floral or as pretty of a pour as Pliny The Elder, but it's highly drinkable. It's kind of citrusy, and a bit sweet for an IPA. Overall, I would recommend this as a session IPA. I might be referring to this often, so a definition of a session beer might be helpful. Anything that is a 'session beer' is a beer that could be very enjoyable to drink multiples over an extended period of time. A lot of the beers I'll rate and describe on Triple B will be too heavy, too sweet, too whatever to have more than one. Racer 5 is a beer that would be enjoyable over and over at a BBQ. Give it a taste if you have a chance.


I've been on an oldies run lately, and no one artist has been stuck in my head more recently than Al Green. I'll add one of my personal favorites of his, a song that isn't often listed when his name comes up. Enjoy "Here I Am Baby" by Al Green.