Beer Review: 21st Amendment Back in Black

21st Amendement Back in BlackLet me start off by saying I'm a big fan of the 21st Amendment (both the brewpub and the amendment, of course); we go way back.  They're one of my two favorite brewpubs in San Francisco (the other being Magnolia) - heck, there's even video evidence of my past hanging out there at a F* party during the dot-com crash (skip to minute 1.03 if you have a burning desire to see the much-younger me speak).  I love that they've been pioneers in canning craft beer, and they are never afraid to experiment.  With that in mind, I had high hopes for Back in Black - I love the style, especially Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, Victory Yakima Twilight and Deschutes Hop in the Dark - and whether you wish to call it a Black IPA, Cascadian Dark Ale or something entirely different is a point I'll leave up to you.

With that somewhat rambling prologue out of the way, I'll get right to the review - I'm disappointed to say it was only OK.  It looked great when poured - deep brown, tan head, nice (if somewhat unexpectedly subtle) hop aroma, but when it came to the actual taste, that's where things weren't exactly right.  I've sampled some homebrewed beers in this style that don't quite get the hops and roastiness working together as they should, imparting a somewhat ashy taste, and I'm sorry to say I noticed a very similar taste with Back in Black.  While that flavor was at the forefront, it also lacked a certain depth beyond that; one of the great things about this style is that there are usually a number of different complementary (granted, some would say competing) tastes, while this was very one-note.

Was it terrible? No - it just wasn't up to the usual very high standard set by the brewery.  Sublimely Self-Righteous is still the standard in this category - but it's great to see more brewers jumping on board.  A willingness to experiment, even when it's not always 100% successful, is a fine thing - and something that sets the craft beer industry apart.

Beer Review: Tommyknocker Hop Strike!

Tommyknocker Hop StrikeWhile Ninkasi’s Spring Reign and Black Raven’s Tamerlame were both fabulous, this entry from Colorado’s Tommyknocker Brewery is now also a serious contender for my favorite new (or at least ‘new to me’) beer this year.  I won’t go through the entire BJCP checklist (aroma, appearance, etc.), I will say that it’s got a particularly pleasing grassy hop aroma – yes, the official description says ‘citrusy’ and there’s a bit of that there, but it’s not a full-on west-coast-style hoppiness.  Perhaps the most surprising element of the beer is the deep chocolate flavor contrasted with the hops; it lends an oatmeal-stout-like silkiness, yet the mouthfeel (yes, I just said ‘mouthfeel’) is completely different – it’s still clearly an IPA.

While not sweet (beyond the general maltiness), it lacks the roasty bitterness one might expect when first examining the beer – there’s a pleasing hop bitterness, to be sure, but it’s balanced well with the malt to offer a unique character.  The history of this one-time beer is worth noting: it was brewed to honor Free the Hops, an Alabama organization that successfully lobbied their state legislature to lift the 6% ABV limit imposed on locally-available beers.

So, is this beer worth a little extra effort to seek out?  Most assuredly.

Welcome to (yes, another domain)

Weird Beer GirlWhy, you may ask, have you added yet another domain?  Why not just update your Philadelphia Beer Bars Examiner blog more often, as you used to?  The answer is twofold: first, I want to write about beer from beyond Philadelphia (even if I’ve most likely consumed it in a great Philly-area bar or restaurant), and, perhaps more importantly, while I have time to dash off a quick review, keeping abreast of everything that’s happening locally takes more free time than I have at present.

So, what will you find here? Beer reviews, plugs for bars and restaurants I like and general craft beer evangelism; if I can add to the ranks of Ladies of Craft Beer, I’m doing my job!

And if you’re a first-time visitor (welcome!) who wants to know whether the ‘weird’ modifies the beer or the girl, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume it’s a bit of both – I’m a BJCP-certified beer geek (and beer runner) who enjoys seeking out new and hard-to-find beers, but without the slavish devotion to Westy 12 – I like it, sure, but I like many other things much more.

In addition to the Examiner link above, there are a few year-end beer roundups to get you started; and so, without further ado, the first quick review under the new system – read on!

For quick comments on beer (and geekery), follow me on Twitter.

General Superlatives: 2009

Arctic Club, Seattle
Arctic Club, Seattle

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Rather shamefully, I have no books on this list; while I read many, not a one was published in 2009 – my excuse is that I’m waiting for the new Nick Hornby novel to come out in paperback.  So, in fractured order, here are this year’s Things I Liked A Lot:

Best Thing I Wrote This Year: On Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Memory
Best Race (live): The Haskell (just edging out the Preakness)
Best Race (televised): Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best (human) Race: Dogfish Dash 10K
Best Soccer: US beats Spain, Confederations Cup
Best Trip: Seattle, Arctic Club/MLS Cup/REI pilgrimage/new light rail
Best Airline: Alaska Airlines
Best Live Show (overall): Leonard Cohen, Tower Theater
Best Free@Noon Show at World Cafe Live: John Wesley Harding/M. Ward
Best Beer (draft): Stone/BrewDog Bashah
Best Beer (bottled): Pretty Things Saint Botolph’s Town
Best New Bar: Varga Bar
Best Album: John Wesley Harding: Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead
Best Concept Album: The Duckworth-Lewis Method: The Age of Revolution
Best Random Song: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Home
Best TV: How I Met Your Mother
Best Event TV: Doctor Who
Best Movie: (500) Days of Summer
Best Movie Franchise Reboot: Star Trek

I Am Everywhere, Like the Latest Meme

Luckily THATCamp Austin is done now (although I continue to manage the THATCamp Austin twitter account, to help promote the other regional THATCamps that are springing up), for I have added yet another new writing outlet to my ever-expanding stable.  I’ll be blogging for the NTRA leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, with a focus on the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.  That means you can find me writing about horse racing on my own blog, on the NTRA site and on TVG’s Community; if it’s archives you’re after, go for A Movable Archives – for beer, I’m at the Examiner.  If you’re looking for the most recent updates, you can always come here and have a look on the right-hand side – new articles are added automatically.  I can be hard to avoid at times.

Because You Can Never Have Enough…

I have yet another new blog, this one in my capacities as a BJCP judge, Beerdrinker of the Year semi-finalist and Lady Beer Geek About Town. Granted, it’s not as pretty as one I would have designed myself, but I decided to go ahead and give the Examiner model a try. So far, I have yet to receive preferential treatment of the sort real food and drink critics get, but I’d be more than happy to accept it if any barkeeps wish to offer those services. In any case, please do check it out.

I’m also the webmaster, designer, sys admin and Jane of All Trades for THATCamp Austin – if you’re going to be in town for SAA and want to talk digital humanities, please do check it out!

30 Notable Beers of 2008

Whitbread Brewery, origin of the London Porter recipeAllagash Fluxus 2008
This year’s Fluxus was a ginger-spiced witbier. It was rather tasty.

Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Rosée d’Hibiscus
Another wit – but this one is flavored hibiscus. This is possibly the only ‘girly’ beer I’ve ever enjoyed.

Brooklyn Brewery Flemish Gold
A saison from
Garrett Oliver’s arsenal – lots of flavor.

Brouwerij de Molen 1914 London Porter
All beer-geek archivists read
Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, yes? If you do not already, you should begin, since the blog and, hence, the beer are the fruits of researcher/author/blogger Ronald Pattinson’s hard work in various European beer archives. And it’s great.

Brouwerij de Molen SSS 1914 Triple Stout
Like the beer above, this is a fantastic recreation of a historic recipe – one I’d be happy to drink every day.

Dogfish Head Sah’tea
Also something of a historic recreation (this time of a Finnish
sahti), but as this is Dogfish Head, it had a modern twist – actual tea in the brew, and a weizen yeast. More refreshing than it is possible to convey.

Dogfish Head Theobroma
It sometimes seemed that every new beer I tried this year featured chocolate in some way, but nothing could compare to the latest archaeological beer from Dogfish Head. Unique, and a very different brew in tap and in the bottle.

Earth Bread + Brewery The Bradley Effect
A winner from the much-anticipated brewpub (see below, and try the flatbreads – they are amazing) with a very unusual style – it was a black gruit (and was on tap just in time for the election).

Earth Bread + Brewery Here’s Brucker
I seemed to have enjoyed many alts this year – this was one of the best, despite the
terrible pun.

Earth Bread + Brewery Love Your Mother
After much wrangling over a liquor license, Earth Bread + Brewery finally opened; this mild was in their starting lineup. Really a nice beer, especially for someone who is stuck driving later.

Norwegian Wood
It was too smoky for me, but I could appreciate the work that had gone into it – the juniper was a nice touch, and I look forward to their other offerings.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 16
I am generally not a fan of anything wood-aged, but perhaps there’s something about whisky casks that makes it OK. Harviestoun took their reliable Old Engine Oil and deposited it in some
Highland Park casks for a while (I also tried the 12 and 30 varieties), with a very tasty (and, for completists, individually-numbered) result. This one was just right.

Moa Noir
I am often suspicious of a beer that has made a long journey in a bottle, but this dark lager from New Zealand was great – more, please!

Nils Oscar Kalasöl
A märzen from Sweden, and a good one, too – not to mention an excuse to use two umlauts in rapid succession.

Otter Creek Sea Otter
My favorite from the Otter Creek World Tour series – a Baltic porter with a ton of flavor.

Port Brewing/De Proefbrouwerij Signature Ale
Possibly the oddest beer I’ve had this year, and one I thought I would dislike since I am not the world’s biggest fan of
Brettanomyces. This works perfectly for me, though.

Ridgeway Bad King John
A dark, bitter stout, but in a very good way.

Rogue Double Dead Guy
As per usual, Rogue can get away with front-loading the hops – there’s still plenty of malt to make this a perfect Halloween brew.

Rogue John Locker Stock #10, Oktoberfest
This was something of a departure for Rogue – the malt finally got a chance to shine.

Russian River Blind Pig IPA
West coast brewers truly understand how to do the über-hoppy thing while maintaining great flavor.

Southern Tier Choklat
Rather like its sibling below – I wish these came in airline-sized bottles.

Southern Tier Crème Brulee
Definitely a ‘dessert only’ beer – very, very sweet and lives up to its namesake.

Southern Tier Oat
It’s an imperial oatmeal stout. It’s very tasty. It needs to come in a smaller bottle.

Stone XII Anniversary
Another chocolate beer, this one a bitter chocolate oatmeal stout. Really nice, but it was hard to match the memory of the
XI Anniversary, which remains my current favorite beer. Can it please become a year-round offering? Pretty please?
Update: Thank you, Stone Gods!

Struise Black Albert
I know every other beer geek loves it. I see how it’s well-crafted, really I do – but it’s too wine-y for me; the grape flavor and I are not friends. Nice maltiness, though.

Struise Mikeller

Belgium and Denmark came together to make a strong golden ale (or something along those lines). It was tremendous.

Struise Tsjeeses
It was blond tastiness.

Troegs Scratch #6
The Troegs Scratch series has been great fun; I am not normally a huge fan of the Dortmunder Export style, but this won me over.

Troegs Scratch #7
Who doesn’t like a weizenbock?

Victory Yakima Twilight
It’s something like a dark double IPA (not quite a Stone XI Anniversary, but perhaps a distant relation) and quite hoppy for Victory, whose stable of lagers made me realize lagers could be Good Things. I hope to have more.

So, there you have it – a partial sampling of Things I’ve Really Liked this year; if I had to pick a favorite, it’s going to be a narrow victory for the 1914 London Porter, just edging out the SSS 1914 Triple Stout. I wish you good luck in obtaining a bottle in time for New Year’s Eve.


Yes, it’s true; I’m officially an award-winning brewer. Here are some ways to celebrate this accomplishment:

Dieu du Ciel! Rosée d’Hibiscus
Gasthaus Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof Gose
Reissdorf Kölsch
Victory St. Boisterous
Victory Braumeister Pils

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews
A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse by Nancy Marie Brown
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

Snow Day Lists

The icy weather affords an opportunity to broadcast a few recent favorites, many of which admittedly have not changed much since November:

Sweden – The Mountain Goats
Laid – James
The Life Pursuit – Belle & Sebastian
Company – 2006 Broadway Revival Cast Recording
Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters – The Twilight Sad

February Derby Picks
Anak Nakal
Court Vision
Face the Cat
Tale of Ekati
War Pass

Iron Hill Pilsner Barleywine (West Chester)
Stone XI Anniversary
Troubadour Obscura
Troegs Scratch #7

Year-End Beer Roundup, Take One

In no particular order, here’s my first crack at my top ten beers for 2007 — and yes, there are more than ten at this point:

Troubadour Obscura – Belgium
Bell’s Batch 8000 – USA
Berliner Kindl Weisse – Germany
Dogfish Head Fed-Extra Mild – USA
Dogfish Head Baltic Porter – USA
Russian River Pliny the Elder – USA
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale 1998 – UK
Stone XI Anniversary (on tap) – USA
Elysian Fields ESB (hand pump) – USA
Thomas Hooker Liberator – USA
Avery/Russian River Collaboration, Not Litigation – USA