This is a long time coming, but hark back to the evening in which I gathered my friend Michael, who really likes beer in an intelligent sort of way and knows a lot about it, and two other friendly persons with distinguished palates, PCP’s Bradford Pearson and his fiancée Kelleen. Our mission was to drink beer and talk about it like humans with a limited budget for booze-buying. This is the second installment.
What we did: If you remember from Part I, we drank and joked our way through a selection of Bolsa Mercado’s stock. But Michael also brought three bonus bottles from his beer cellar, AKA his closet, which is what we’ll talk about here. Some were seasonal brews he bought here in Dallas a couple months ago, others were smuggled back from faraway lands like St. Louis (and have unfortunately never been available here in Dallas.) We tried to use correct glassware for beer type when possible. Mostly it wasn’t possible. To provide us with sustenance, I picked up a selection of cheeses, my favorite gluten-free crackers, water crackers, Gypsy salami, two Cane Rosso pizzas, and a pound of Haribo gummy bears, which ended up being my best/worst decision of the night. After snacking, we got down to business.
Jolly Pumpkin Luciérnaga (From Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purchased in St. Louis; $15)
Initial thoughts: Label says it’s an artisan pale ale, brewed in the grand cru tradition. Michael’s looking forward to this one, and tells us that this is another one of those breweries where “you can pick their beers out blindfolded. They all have a very consistent…something. Nice small tight prickly carbonation. They’re all a little funky. You’ll taste it.” It smells like green apple, pours honey-colored and beautifully in a tulip. By the time we popped this guy open, we’d had hard cider and a witbier. Brad’s had a few nips of bourbon.
About the brew:
Michael: This…it’s a little sour.
Kelleen and Liz: UH OH.
Michael: It’s not very sour. It’s a lot of green apple-y, from what I remember.
Kelleen: It smells very fruity.
Brad: It’s interesting. The head on all of these is more consistent…still not the same, but more consistent…Oh, yeah. That’s got a very specific taste.
Michael: Again, still really floral, a lot of green apple, that really tight, prickly carbonation.
Brad: It doesn’t expand at all.
Michael: And all their [Jolly Pumpkin] beers are very refreshing, even the darker ones. All a little funky.
Brad: I kinda like the funkiness.
Michael: I get granny smith apple over everything, which is funny because they don’t even mention that.
Brad: There is still a lot of coriander.
Michael: It’s that same flora, lemony or citrusy…I love how carbonated their shit is.
Brad: It is very refreshing because of the carbonation.
Liz: Well. This is delicious.
Michael: Ballast Point..I don’t know how long they’ve been distributed to Texas. I don’t remember.
Brad: Anyone mind if I finish this one?
Michael: But they make an IPA called Sculpin…which is a very very good IPA if you can get it fresh. And the issue is that they didn’t use to date their bottles. And with an IPA…freshness is imperative. Sometimes beers age well…stouts age…sours age well, often…every beer has a period where it’s best, obviously, but IPAs and highly hopped beers, it’s always as soon as possible.
Brad: I’m learning so much tonight.
Michael: Just because the hops fade. Like, 90 Minute IPA, Dogfishhead, may be great fresh. I may have just never had it fresh. But as soon as that butterness starts to fade, that high alcohol sweetness takes over and it’s just like…blahhhh. But if you can get fresh Sculpin and it’s around now and dated—all the bottles I’ve seen around now in DFW are best by July, which probably means they’re still relatively fresh. But that beer that Liz brought me [from Vermont], Heddy Topper in a can, it was amazing. And fresh, it’s f#$@ing mind blowing.
Brad: That was mind blowing.
Liz: And so many weeks old by that point.
Michael: Still. The best IPAs hands down, no question, in the country, are coming out of Vermont. The Alchemist, Heddy Topper.
Brad [obviously done with our sidebar]: I like this a lot. It was so drinkable.
Kelleen: Wow, Brad, you just downed that one. I feel like you just poured the other glass…
Brad: Don’t worry about it. NEXT!
Field notes: Kelleen found hints of pine and lemon, Brad focused on the coriander, Michael on this green apple. It tasted a little different to all of us, which made for an interesting experience. Brad downed two glasses of this one in quick succession. 6.50 ABV, refreshing, imminently drinkable. My contribution to this discussion: “weird.”
Spend dollars on it: For a unique summer boozing experience, absolutely. Might pair well with a cheeseburger in beer nerd paradise, but don’t quote me on that. Look for it next time you’re anywhere but Texas.
Jester King Boxer’s Revenge (While it was available, it was purchasable at Central Market; $15, but Michael snapped them up during a sale)
Initial thoughts: Coolest label of the night. It’s the Austin brewery’s barrel-aged wild ale, a first release for them that they’ll probably reprise. The beer is fermented with wild yeast (usually brettanomyces, the bane of wineries, but a strain that breweries covet—Michael says they’ll take infected wine barrels and age beer in them to make sours) rather than the traditional saccharomyces variety. The beer itself is dark and stormy.
About the brew:
Michael: Oh, that is not what I expected. It’s creamy.
Liz: Ew, really? This horse looks nuts. But the colors are so pretty.
Michael: Like, the flavor isn’t, but the mouth feel is creamy.
Brad: It almost tastes like…it has a very vinegary, pickle taste to it.
Michael: Vinegar’s not unusual. There’s a point where a beer goes from tasting sour, to like balsamic. I wish this had more carbonation.
Kelleen: I don’t like it. Do you like it?
Liz: Ugh. Michael, you have four bottles of this? It tastes like pickle juice.
Michael: It doesn’t taste like pickle juice. I like the tartness. The sourness is welcome. I just wish it had more…
Brad: It needs more depth of flavor.
Michael: It could be the bottle.
Liz: And your other three bottles could be delicious?
Michael: Four bottles.
Brad: In the back end, there is some sort of acidic citrus taste to it.
Michael: There is plenty of citrus…it’s like apple cider vinegar. But the lack of…it’s flat. Flat-flat. It could be the bottle. I still like it.
Liz: Ehhhhh. I prefer that White Rascal to this.
Kelleen: I prefer the Original Sin to this.
Brad: Let’s not get crazy. Let’s not compare this to that alcoholic apple juice.
Field notes: Light-bodied—a potential hallmark of over-attenuation, which can be caused by longer, warmer fermentation or the wild yeast. But the beer wasn’t especially dry, either, so who knows. I thought it tasted unnervingly like pickle juice. (Michael, to me, again, as I type this: “It doesn’t taste like pickle juice.”) As the beer warmed, we got more of a whiskey flavor. Definitely sour.
Spend dollars on it: Michael will purchase the second release of this to see if they added more carbonation, the magic ingredient we agreed this stuff needed to give it a lift into the “drinkable” category. But otherwise, and personally, not unless I wanted the world’s funkiest pickle back.
Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops ($25-$30; Michael bought it a year ago)
Initial thoughts: We were on the fence about opening this, since it was beer number seven and these bottles were not small, but then Kelleen said she wanted to get the taste of that Wild Ale out of her mouth. The opaque bottle is pretty awesome; pours black with caramel-colored head.
About the brew:
Brad: It’s dark as night! Dark as night.
Michael: Bourbon barrel aged. Champagne yeast. It’s gonna be confusing.
Kelleen: Wait, do you like it?
Michael: I’ve never had it.
Kelleen: Is this the one you’re not sure about?
Michael: This year is supposed to be worse than others. It probably could have used a sit in my closet for another year and a half.
Kelleen: So, this one would be good, except for the fact that we’ve had that one [the Jester King Farmhouse Black Metal].
Brad: You’re right. The Black Metal is much better. [Black Metal] is a much bolder flavor than that is. The depth of flavor is…
Michael: Which is weird, because it’s bourbon-aged, so it should have more flavor.
Kelleen: Does anyone want some chocolate with this?
Michael: You do get that chocolate. There’s hardly any bourbon in that flavor. You’re right, Black Metal is better.
Michael: There are some bourbon-aged stouts that you’ll have….let’s think about other bourbons. Black Tuesday. Who’s Black Tuesday by? The Bruery in California. I like that a lot. And Bourbon County, by Goose Island.
Brad: [singing] Across 110th street, pimps trying to find a woman that’s weak…
Liz: It’s lighter. That’s what I like about this, because it doesn’t feel like I’m just drinking a thick…
Michael: I want a stout to feel thick. That’s the thing about Guinness. People are like, oh, it’s like a meal in a glass, but really…Guinness tastes like nothing and it’s a light beer. Mouth-feel wise, and calorically, it’s one of the lightest beers you can drink. It’s equivalent to about a Miller Light.
Kelleen: You know what? If you’re a single girl at the bar, and you see a guy drinking like…Miller Light or Michelob Ultra versus Guinness…I feel like if you saw a guy drinking Michelob Ultra you’d be like OH GOD. He sucks.
Michael: I’d drink a Miller Light before I’d drink a Guinness.
Kelleen: Really? Because I feel Guinness looks more…manly. It looks like they don’t care. Even though they could.
Brad: What are you trying to say?
Michael: I’ll drink a Miller Light before Guinness, and a whiskey soda before Miller Light.
Kelleen: So you don’t like Guinness.
Michael: I’m feeling fat.
Kelleen: Next time we go out, I’m buying you a beer. I’m buying you a delicious Guinness.
Field notes: Black Ops is the point where all conversation went off the rails. “We Found Love” by Rihanna is confirmed as one of Brad’s all-time favorite songs. If necessarily, he could provide back up percussion. By far the most expensive bottle of the night, but $15 Jester King stout beat it out for just about everyone. The beer appealed to me as a bit of a lighter stout, but for fans of the thick mouth feel, this isn’t for you. If we’d let it warm up a bit and if we hadn’t had three other giant bottles of beer before this, things might’ve been different.
Spend dollars on it? If you can get Jester King Farmhouse Black Metal instead, do that.
Final words: The next morning, Brad looked terrible. Michael politely informed me that he had a stomachache (His actual words: “F*&% YOU FOR BRINGING GUMMY BEARS MY STOMACH HURTS.”) Out of this batch, procured entirely from Michael’s secret closet stash, we said nay to Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops, nay to Jester King Boxer’s Revenge, and thank you please more to Jolly Pumpkin Luciernaga. Someone should import this beer immediately.
Next time on Beers With Friends: A random sampling of summer seasonal beers available for purchase right here in North Texas. Can’t hardly wait.