Why we're here...

Beer culture is coming of age. At any store, restaurant, bar, or friend's house you can now find at least a few good brews. In fact, there seem to be so many new beers, breweries and bars it's difficult to separate the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

If you're going spend $10 on one beer, what should you buy? If you're going to drive 2 hours to check out a brewery, what's worth your time? If you're going to plan a Friday night, what has a good selection and friendly atmosphere? We're here to help you answer these questions.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NorCal Double IPA Grocery Store Showdown

Nine of us blind taste-tested four Double or Imperial IPAs from NorCal breweries. They were bought a grocery store to see how they compare. We bought them all from Bel Air, knowing they've likely sat on the shelf longer than if they were bought from bottle shop.We wanted to see what an average consumer would find if they picked up a bottle from a grocery store.

We used a score range of 0-5, five being the best.

We bought Heretic's Evil Cousin, Napa Smith's Hopageddon, Bear Republic's Cafe Racer 15, and Rubicon's Hopsauce.

Evil Cousin
Beer Advocate: 87
Rate Beer: 3.68
Our score: 3

Beer Advocate: 83
Rate Beer: 3.52
Our score: 2.5

Cafe Racer 15
Beer Advocate: 94
Rate Beer: 3.88
Our Score: 3.38

Beer Advocate: 85
Rate Beer: 3.66
Our Score: 2.1

Overall, the hop flavor was lacking. These must have been sitting around for awhile. However, it was clear the Cafe Racer was the favorite and Evil Cousin a close second. Cafe Racer's hop flavors held up and Evil Cousin was more malt-forward with a enjoyable bitter finish. The other two had off-flavors ranging from slightly sour, buttery, to dirt.

Is it fair to judge beers we know are older? Yes. These are the bottles to which the average consumer will have access, especially new or irregular craft brew drinkers. Beers can win medals at beerfests, because breweries put their best, freshest, and well-tended batches forward. But, those aren't the batches consumers will end up taking home from the store.

The supply chain (breweries, distributors, and stores) needs to do a better job at rotating, storing, and labeling dates on brews. The four brews we tested either did not have bottling dates or had date stamps that were not easily understood. All nine tasters have had disappointing experiences of buying old beers and this tasting validated the problem.

We understand that breweries want to get their brand out and increase production, but the decline in quality turns off the craft beer nerds who help recruit more craft beer nerds. There's at least two breweries we we won't be buying stuff from or recommending (this isn't our first negative experiences with these breweries). We're looking for breweries that focus on quality and consumer knowledge.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Cascaderade is an India Pale Lager (IPL) by the Sudwerk Brewing Company of Davis, CA.

The IPL style is still emerging and I think it'll take a bit to work out nuances, but I like the idea. While quite a number of breweries are putting out this style, lagering is a challenge for most small breweries, so don't expect this style to explode. Sudwerk has been doing lagers for 25 years, so they have the ability to make them.

I bought this at Bel Air, it has an ABV of 6.6%. I recommend when serving to do a gentle pour, unless you like a lot of head.

I had seen this beer around for awhile, but hesitated on trying it. Sudwerk has been going through an evolution, for the better, over the last few years, so I wanted to give them some time to work out new recipes before writing reviews. I like the direction they're going in.

The aroma has the cascade hops with faint whiffs of malt. The taste has some hop bite up front with citrus hops and light pine flavor through out. This bitterness continues to linger enjoyably after the finish. There are hints of pilsner malts. The body is medium light, with higher carbonation then an IPA, but it still maintains a smooth finish.

Overall, this is an enjoyable, tasty beer. If I didn't know it was an IPL, I probably would have just thought it was an ale. The body is lighter than you'd expect for a 6.6% ABV, but not exactly sure what the lagering adds. I recommend you Try It.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fire Break

Fire Break is an Irish Red Ale by the American River Brewing Company. The brewery is right off of the Sunrise exit on Highway 50 and close to light rail. They have a solid selection, but this is one of my favorites.

Fire Break comes in at 6%ABV. You can typically find this at any store that sells local Sacramento brew.

 The aroma has caramel malt and more subtle notes of roast and chocolate, followed by light fruit hops. The taste is malt upfront and follows the aroma - caramel with hints of roast and chocolate. There's a light bitter hoppiness. The mouthfeel a medium/light body with moderate carbonation with smooth and slightly dry finish.

Overall, I enjoyed this beer. Despite this bottle having sat in my fridge for a couple of months, I did not notice and depreciation of flavor. This not a west coast red, which are more common are more hop forward. This definitely hits the mark for the malt-forward, Irish red style. Even if you threw it in with other reds being brewed in NorCal this is one of the better ones. I strongly recommend you Try It.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

J.C. Flyer

J.C. Flyer is an IPA by the Iron Springs Pub and Brewery of Fairfax, CA. I bought this at Capitol Beer and Taproom. J.C. Flyer is a country-rock artist in the Bay Area - check them out.

Iron Springs is a green certified brewery. They even have an "Ambrewlance" powered by vegetable oil that delivers their beer.

The aroma has grassy and herbal hops with hints of citrus. The flavor kicks off with some grassy, herbal and spicy hops, mixing in some citrus in the middle and finish with some delicious English malts. It finishes with the same mix of hops, but with an added underlying English bitterness, like grapefruit rind, which is toned down. The body is medium and it has spot on carbonation.

Overall, this is a very delicious, unique IPA. I've seen other, less tasty, brews marketed as English Style IPA with West Coast flavors, but this hits all the right notes. There's a the well-blended west coast and English hops, and the English bitter bite that is softened by the west coast hops. Its hard to find new, truly unique, well-crafted IPAs in California so this is a Must Have It.

I'm looking forward to visiting the brewery.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kermit the Hop

Kermit the Hop is an organic Double IPA by the Bison Brewing Company of Berkeley, CA, although Bison contracts with the Mendocino Brewing Company to brew their beers.

I bought this at the Capitol Beer and Taproom.It has an ABV of 8.5%.

The aroma has hints of citrus and grapefruit. The taste follows the nose, with light citrus, bitter hops and light caramel malts. The finish has a bite of alcohol which lingers at the back of the throat. The mouthfeel is a bit sticky and the body a little lighter than you'd expect for  Double IPA.

Overall, its a decent IPA, but without any unique characteristics. It's probably the better of the Bison brews I've tried - you should Try It too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Maharaja is an Imperial (Double) IPA by the Avery Brewing Company from Boulder, Colorado. I first came across Avery during this year's Sacramento Beer Week - probably my favorite new find. I bought this bottle at Capitol Beer and Taproom.

Maharaja is part of Avery's dictator series with two other brews - the Kaiser an imperial Oktoberfest, and the Czar an imperial Stout. They are all high octane beers, with this one clocking in at 10.2% ABV.

The aroma has citrus rind and grapefruit, some caramel malts and whiffs of booze. The taste is malt forward but soon gives way to a range of citrus flavors mixed with malt. The finish has bitter citrus and pine notes and a punch of booze that subsides as you drink. There's also some bitter grassy notes that linger. Spot on carbonation creates a nice medium body and an overall smooth mouthfeel despite the big ABV.

Overall, this is an enjoyable DIPA. Solid range of hop flavors and well crafted. The high ABV and alcohol flavor could be tamed a little more, but I recommend you Try It.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Vindicator as an IPA brewed by the Loomis Basin Brewing Company of Loomis, CA.

I bought this at Capitol Beer and Taproom.

The aroma has light citrus hops. The flavor is all over the place, mostly muted citrus, both fruit and bitter. The finish has light bitter citrus rind, that lingers for a bit. Not much malt flavor. Flat, light/medium bodied.
 Not much else to say - Skip It. Boring, faint flavors.