June 6 2014 05:29 PM

Your one-stop shop for hastily formed opinions on beer

Photo by Ian cheesman

Beer is both my truest ally and greatest nemesis. Nothing motivates me to write like beer does, right up until I have one, that is. Though many great writers have churned out their best stuff while half in the bag (see: Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson and Miss Manners), beer only renders me lethargic and snuffs my creative flame. It's a bit of a paradox, but I do my best to adjust. For example, rather than trying to capture coherent thoughts while quaffing, I jot down impressions that I trust will make sense later. They often don't. I really should know better than to trust myself.

When life makes you a sloppy journalist, all you can do is make sloppy-journalist-ade out of it. Here's my lightning review of the overwhelming number of new beers I've taken half-assed notes on recently:

Helm's Goosefoot Ginger (8-percent ABV) is golden raisins, booze and ginger up front, but the belch is all Belgian funk. I'm not a member of the tangy-beer-loving demographic, but I can see its appeal.

Karl Strauss' Mosaic Session Ale (5.5-percent ABV) has an aroma that heavily favors grapefruit, which is not to say it's heavy. It neither over- nor underwhelms. It simply whelms. The flavor, however, has a depth of hop character that opens with herbal and citrus notes and evolves into mango-like flavors. It finishes light with a faint blend of those hop notes, assuring its success in the sessioning department.

The AleSmith / Cigar City Ramblin' Rye (8.5-percent ABV) has aromas of wood, rye bread and coffee. The same emerge in the flavor, with a touch of peppery bread pudding (just like Mom used to make!). It was tasty, but not as wildly flavorful as I would hope a collaboration between two brewing titans would produce.

Mother Earth Brewing Company's Big Mother Triple IPA (10.5-percent ABV) is aptly named. It's a vibrant Froot Loops orange, which is appropriate, since those same lip-smackingly sweet marmalade and tropical-fruit flavors charge out of it. It's well hopped, but those characteristics arise more in citrus-pith aroma and sticky-pine notes in the finish. It's a little sweet overall, but a fitting tribute to three years of quality MEBC brews.

St. Oskar's Indica Black Lager (7.45-percent ABV), a "joint" effort (LOL!!!) by Oskar Blues and Saint Archer, smells of wet grain and floral notes so dank they're almost skunky. It's light- to medium-bodied with prominent vegetal and floral notes and some toasty, charcoal undertones. It lands much like a black IPA but without as much presence. Despite being well-executed, it left me wanting that black IPA heft.

Coronado Brewing Sock Knocker (8.5-percent ABV) is a hop gauntlet. It has a floral, almost perfume-y nose and the potent flavors of citrus rind, white pepper, pine, oranges and mint. The pepper and pine drive the finish and nip at your palate a bit. In a city overflowing with monstrous IPAs, this one manages to be distinct and memorable.

Gordon Biersch Dunkels (5.4-percent ABV) has vague aromas of bread crust, plum and cocoa and mild flavors of the same to match. True to style, it's crisp and highly drinkable, if not terribly memorable.

Write to ianc@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com, or follow @iancheesman on Twitter or read his blog, iancheesman.wordpress.com.


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