I received a real surprise in my beer club selection from La Bodega– Agrarian Hop Farm Ales Cherry Bomb Chile Porter. The “cherry” part concerned me a bit. I’ve had other cherry offerings that were very tart. I was, however, intrigued by the “chile” part. I was further encouraged when I read the bottle and learned the chiles were from the brewery’s neighbor. It’s nice to be able to get fresh chiles right next door!
The label gave a very accurate pitch. There was only a slight head once poured, and the color was a deep ebony. There were smells of dark coffee and pepper. I will concede that I love pepper beers, and the scent may only have been detectable to me due to that. The mouthfeel was thick and almost syrupy, but without any sense of barleywine. Although it coated my mouth well, I did wish it was a bit lighter. A low carbonation made the chile heat slightly more interactive on the palate.
They’ve done it. They captured all the heat of the chile without the taste. Damn. Derek and I have been trying for over a year to accomplish that. I give them serious kudos.
Derek found the porter to be a bit sour with a pleasant heat after swallowing.
Yet again it’s Sunday before I’m ready to prepare for a new week. This particular Sunday I decided to rebel against my usual list of chores and squeeze in some “girl-time”. I like to include my husband in all major decisions so he approved my nail polish color. Thank goodness because what if I was to paint my nails a color that made him want to vomit? What kind of marriage would that be?
In addition to painting my nails, I wanted to try an arguably girly beer as well. My choice for this afternoon was Oskar Blues Brewery’s Death by Coconut.
This canned beer has a sweet coconut smell, but is a bit more chocolate flavored on the palate. Dark brown color is set off by a nice head that fades fast. (The head picture here was my second pour. Gosh. The things I endure for you dear reader.)
Death by Coconut reminds me of Maui Brewing’s coconut porter but a bit more bitter. The bitterness makes it more drinkable. It grounds the palate and helps control the sweetness. This is where my husband disagrees. He found the Blues’ brew to be reminiscent of suntan lotion- just what he says about Maui Brewing’s. So not only is the house clean and laundry done, but my nails are happy red, and my tastebuds are enjoying sweet before savory. Pork Chops are baking, but desert first is a nice naughty choice on a Sunday of preparation.
I think this beer would be very tasty with desert. For instance, I kept picturing the cappuccino cake I made last week for my daughter’s 17th birthday. It was covered in ewy-gewy, homemade caramel and this beer would pair with it in a mind-blowing way.
I have a treat for you today. My Mother’s Day gift, and my mother’s Mother’s Day gift, was a trip to Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer, AK. I was lured their way on this special day, not because of my mother’s love of beer (she doesn’t have one), but because of the owners’ fabulous commercial.
All of my readers know by now it doesn’t take much to get me to a new brewery, but I can’t think of a time I’ve been more eager. These owners had just the personality I was looking for- approachable, thoughtful, and smart-assy.
But would these desirable traits translate into everything I was looking for in a beer?
Before I answer, let’s look into the joint a bit more. The location is perfectly Palmer. It’s in an unassuming industrial area and there is a picnic table out front for when the weather cooperates. Inside, there is limited seating, but it’s quite welcoming. It’s a lot like my grandmother’s house actually, and I mean that as a compliment. I love my grandmother and her house. There’s a distinct feeling of comfort. And, much like my grandmother’s house, there’s also plenty of banter between guests to disrupt the comfort with a laugh.
The owners, Zack Lanphier and Stefan Marty, were at the bar when we arrived, and I quickly asked for my free “mom” beer. Their first response?
“Wow. You even brought your kids to prove it. That’s going above and beyond! I mean, we would have trusted your word.”
After this boisterous greeting, my husband and I chatted them up about their brewery vision and I complimented them on the commercial. Lanphier laughed and pointed to the wall. What I saw only reinforced the owners’ and bar’s persona- a hand written script jotted down on yellow notepad paper. Marty laughed and the two began discussing how they want to make consistently delicious beer, creative beer, and beer the patrons ask for. There’s a chalkboard available to all who visit. Ideas go up, and the best, sometimes riskiest, are chosen and brought to life.
We initially got a flight because it’s important to try all of one’s options before picking a free beer. For science! (And of course we always get a flight when visiting a new brewery. Duh.) Some high notes were hit with Grounds for Divorce Coffee Porter and Kold Shoulder Kristallweizen. By now you know I love a good coffee porter, and this one did not disappoint. It was dark, smooth, and carried a distinct coffee flavor that didn’t linger bitterly on the tongue. (Spoiler- this ended up being my mother’s day choice.) Kold Shoulder was fresh, crisp, and golden.
Two other brews, Valley Trash Dirty Blonde and Bleeding Heart IPA, left a bit to be desired. First, I have read nothing but lovely reviews on both since visiting. Second, I’m in a tumultuous relationship with IPAs, and strong hop flavors in general. (We see plenty of other people. Sometimes we fall for each other again, but I find myself betrayed months later…) Third, I’m a girl who loves pink and purple, so a pink or purple beer was bound to be the Best. Beer. Ever. Tragically, the Red Beet IPA was terrible- stunning, but hard to swallow. What does all of this prove? Well, possibly my tastebuds were just not “in love with hops” that day. I could also be the only person in the world who doesn’t like them. Whatever the reason, I plan on doing more research on the subject the next time I’m in Palmer. Again, for science!
Final thoughts? Disliking beer is part of the journey, part of the whimsy, and part of the bit of unpredictability in a world that is all too often predictable. I’m actually hoping these guys make more unique beers for me to dislike because it means they’re doing something right. They’re standing out from the Alaskan brewery crowd and creating their own distinctive taste. I will be back with a big smile, ready tastebuds, and a craving for personality.
*Some of my more particular readers may have noticed it has been a very long time since Mother’s Day. True. I really liked Bleeding Heart and struggled with doing them justice, and being honest about my experience. This was not a quick nor easy write. At last, I am satisfied with my work.
Today I’m reviewing Big Island Brewhaus’ White Mountain Porter. It was a gift from my bestest friends. (They have earned the title through sweat, tears, and a shared love of alcohol.) The lucky ducks travel to Hawaii on a regular basis and are kind enough to bring goodies back to little ol’ me.
This particular brew was over-tanned tourist brown, had a fizzy mouthfeel, nice malty-ness and was more coffee than not. Fans of the blog will know I have a bit of a coffee-flavored beer bias. White Mountain didn’t do anything to change that.
Derek, who doesn’t drink coffee but finds it acceptable once fermented with hops and barley, said it was, “pretty good, smooth drinking.” I consider this solid, positive feedback.
To quote the awesomely adequate Nick Cage, “High praise.”
White Mountain is brewed with 5 malts, American hops, and toasted coconut. The brewers use local coffee from Hamakua Coast for the delicious dark roast flavor. The bottle’s label recommends consuming with Thai or Mexican food. Ice cream is also suggested- that “floats” my boat! (Punny, right?)
I am lucky enough to be married to a man who cooks. When he cooks, it is usually fattening and delicious. (I am lucky enough to be married to a man who also doesn’t point out when I’m getting a bit “softer around the edges”.) On this night he was kind enough to cook up some surprisingly healthy fajitas to complement the porter, and boy was that label smart. The meal/beer combo was perfect.