Review: Mudslinger Spring Ale, Redhook

Mudslinger Spring Ale
Redhook Ale Brewery — Woodinville, WA

  • Style:  Nut Brown Ale
  • Bitterness:  30 IBU
  • ABV: 5.8%
  • Malts:   Two row pale, Munich, Caramel, Chocolate, Black, and a touch of Roasted Barley
  • Hops:  Willamette and Northern Brewer
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle
  • Price:  $6.99 six-pack (at supermarket)

Description:  "Mudslinger is a Nut Brown Ale with a Medium body and a fresh aroma.  Its malty flavor is layered with light chocolate, caramel, brown sugar and a hint of vanilla.  Six barley malts and two hop varieties result in a surprisingly smooth, well balanced dark beer”  — Redhook Ale Brewery

The tasting:  Brownish / copper in color (clear) with a white head that dissipated quickly, leaving no lacing on the glass.  When held up to the light , the color was dark-reddish orange. Aroma of toasted malts, bready malts, and citrus hops.  Toasted malt and caramel malts were the strongest flavors, followed by coffee, and a touch of smokiness.  Mudslinger is on the malty side, and while I tasted some earthy hops, they were light. Body is light to medium.  It had medium carbonation, a smooth mouth feel, and finished with sweet malt. Very drinkable.

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gave it to me.   This is an ideal beer for spring.  I think it bridges the gap between the heaver winter beers and the lighter summer beers.  While it's a malty beer, I found it to be light and refreshing.  I didn't taste any nutty flavors (it's a Nut Brown Ale), but it still worked for me.

Have you tried Mudslinger?

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Review: Blackened Hops, Samuel Adams

Blackened Hops

  • Style:  Cascadian Dark Ale
  • Bitterness:  Not provided
  • ABV: 7.0%
  • Malts:   Not provided
  • Hops:  Not provided
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle (provided by brewery)
  • Price:  $9.99 (six-pack) at supermarket

Description:  "Rodney Kibzey’s Blackened Hops is a perfect combination of deep roasted malt character and citrusy hop bitterness. Harnessing eight years of homebrewing knowledge, Rodney found that combining debittered dark malts and citrusy hops yielded a surprising and unique flavor for this brew. Its black color hints at roasted malt and coffee flavors, but it is the big hop character really steals the show. Packed with citrusy and piney American hops, this beer has a big flavor and clean bitterness. This is Rodney’s second LongShot American Homebrew Contest win; he won in 2007 with a Weizenbock and his beer was included in the 2008 LongShot Variety Pack." — Samuel Adams 

Random thoughts:   From my series on Samuel Adams Category 23 award winning homebrews. Marked with an "enjoy before" date of September 2011.  Rodney knows beer! This is the third time his beer has been featured as a LongShot winner!  

The tasting:  Near black in color with a tan head that dissipated fairly slowly, leaving some lacing on the glass.  When held up to the light, I could see faint reddish hues.  Aroma of citrus (grapefruit) and piney hops, roasted malt, and espresso.  In flavor, the piney hops were stronger than the citrus.  Malt flavors were roasted with some chocolate.  I noticed the alcohol towards the end of the taste, but it was in line with what I'd expect of a 7% ABV brew.

Body was light to medium and the hop oils left a resinous mouth feel.  It finished with roasted malt and a sticky piney hop bitterness.  The hops varieties were not listed, but if I had to guess, I'd say Centennial and Citra were used.  Although Blackened Hops has a solid malt backbone, it's not a balanced beer.  This is a beer for hop lovers—plain and simple.  It goes down easily and is very drinkable.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!   I've reviewed a few CDAs (complete reviews are here) and Blackened Hops ranks among the best.  Congrats to Rodney crafting a delicious brew!  If history is a guide, we are likely to see Rodney's beer in the winner's circle again.

So far, Category 23 has been an impressive mixed six-pack.  Honey B's Lavender Ale was very unique, and Blackened Hops gave me exactly what I want in a CDA.  Let's hope Friar Hop Ale can keep the streak alive!  Have you tried Blackened Hops or any of the Category 23 beers?  What did you think?  

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Hopworks Turns 3. Join the Celebration!

Hopworks Urban Brewery turns 3 on March 30and you're invited to the party!  So stop by tomorrow and enjoy $2 pints, food specials, and discounted merchandise.

I visited HUB for the first time a few weeks ago and tasted their delicious beer sampler.  For a recap of the beers I tasted, click here.  Since my I wrote that post, HUB released its Ace of Spades Imperial IPA.  Here's the perfect opportunity for you to taste it for yourself.  Full details are in the press release below.

Happy birthday HUB!!  Congrats on three great years!!!

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Portland’s Sustainable and Organic Brewpub Offers Specials All Day on March 30

PORTLAND, Ore. – As a thank you to loyal customers and craft beer enthusiasts, Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) is celebrating its third anniversary by offering $2 pints, food specials and 20 percent off all HUB merchandise on Wednesday, March 30.

Over the last three years, Hopworks has grown into one of Portland’s most popular and successful brewpubs.  And coming later this summer, the brewery will open its second location, Bike Bar, on North Williams in Portland. Located in the net-zero energy Eco-Flats building, Bike Bar will be more of the same great organic beer and locally-sourced food featuring two beer gardens for socializing and watching the bikes on Williams roll by.

Last year marked the second BikeToBeerFest, featuring bands like Hillstomp and Boy Eats Drum Machine, as well as numerous local bike builders and the amazing Flatlanders BMX trick riders.  The festival drew more than 4,000 fans to HUB’s back parking lot for beers, bikes and bands. BikeToBeerFest returns for its third year on September 17 to again raise money for Sunday Parkways and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance while delivering more of the same great entertainment.

Other notable achievements for Hopworks Urban Brewery:
-       Last year HUB expanded distribution into both British Columbia and the Seattle market.
-       Hopworks produced 6,500 barrels of beer, roughly more than 1.6 million pints of beer.
-       For the fourth consecutive year, Hopworks was named the Best Brewpub in Oregon by Northwest Brewing News.
-       HUB Organic Lager was named the “Best Draft Beer in the World” by Men’s Journal magazine.
-       Hopworks purchased water restoration certificates from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to offset all of its annual water use, restoring 1.8 million gallons of water to the Deschutes River.
-       HUB recently broke ground on a brewery expansion to bring in additional fermenters and increase annual brewing capacity to more than 10,000 barrels a year.

HUB is located at 2944 SE Powell Blvd. and is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. For more information, please visit Hopworks online at or follow on Twitter @HopworksBeer.

Review: Honey B's Lavender Ale, Samuel Adams

Honey B's Lavender Ale

  • Style:  Lavender Ale
  • Bitterness:  Not provided
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • Malts:   Not provided
  • Hops:  Not provided
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle (provided by brewery)
  • Price:  $9.99 (six-pack) at supermarket

Description:  "Caitlin DeClercq has worked as a member of the Samuel Adams sales team since 2006. She created her Honey B’s Lavender Wheat with dried lavender petals, giving it a fragrant but soft aroma. A citrus tartness and slight sweetness from the honey and vanilla balance out the finish in this California resident’s brew; perfect to sip while kicking back and relaxing. — Samuel Adams 

Random thoughts:   From my series on Samuel Adams Category 23 award winning homebrews. Marked with an "enjoy before" date of September 2011.  I strongly suggest you let it warm up a bit before tasting it. When it was very cold, it was difficult to notice the subtleties in aroma and flavor.  

The tasting:  Golden straw color (crystal clear) with a white head that dissipated slowly, leaving lacing on the glass.  As advertised, it delivered aroma and flavor of lavender and honey over a caramel malt backbone.  The flavor of lavender was subtle, but noticeable.  The hop flavors were VERY mild. I expect this was intentional to allow the lavender to come through.  That said, the amount of lavender flavor was perfect and didn't remind me of some fancy soap.  It had a creamy mouth feel and finished with a touch of honey sweetness.  Well balanced and very drinkable!

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!   This is a very unique beer and I haven't tasted anything like it.  It really delivered on the lavender and honey, without being overbearing.  When I first smelled the beer (right out of the fridge cold), the aromas didn't come through, and I expected it to taste like some boring pilsner.  I was wrong.  After it warmed up, it transformed.  Catilin's balance of hops and lavender is masterful.  I'd love learn more about this beer. She's given homebrewers, like me, a reason to be proud!  Next up is Rodney Kibzey's Blackened Hops.

Have you tried Honey B's Lavender Ale or any of the other Category 23 beers?  What did you think?  

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Beer Run: IPAs Gone Wild!

They're wild, they're crazy, they have low self-esteem, and they're on Spring Break!  It's Gir—sorry wrong commercial...

Although I’ve been exploring many styles, IPAs are still among my favorites.  Rather than sample "traditional” IPAs, I thought it would be fun to try some that offer a  twist.  So I assembled this this motley collection of high hopped brews and will be tasting them during the next few weeks.

  • Aprihop,  Dogfish Head.   An IPA brewed with apricots.
  • Big A IPA,  Smuttynose.  The name says it all.
  • Decadent Imperial IPA,  Ska.  A reincarnation of their Pinstripe Pale Ale.
  • Double JackFirestone Walker:  The first Double IPA made by the good folks from Paso Robles.
  • Pitch Black IPAWidmer Brothers:  A Cascadian Dark Ale formerly known as W'10.
  • Raging BitchFlying Dog:  A Belgian-style IPA.

Two of these beers, Big A and Decadent, are not available in Oregon.  Read this for details on why I included them.  This will be fun...

What are your favorite IPAs with a twist?

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Beyond the Northwest: The Quest for Great Beer

In Portland (and essentially the entire West Coast), we have an embarrassment of riches in beer.  When I lived in Illinois in the early to mid-90’s, the pickings were slim.  You could have any beer you wanted as long as it was from Anheuser Busch, Coors, or Miller.  Fortunately, that’s now changing.

If you follow this blog, you may have noticed that most of the beer I profile is from the West.  I’ve enjoyed sampling different styles, but have been limited to beer from the left side of the US.  That's just wrong!  So, in my never ending quest to sample great beer, I will expand my horizons to other regions of our great nation.  Taking it a step further, I want to taste beer that’s NOT distributed in Oregon.  While this may present some procurement challenges, I’m sure I can implement creative solutions.

I’m also doing this to share the beer love with family, friends, and readers who live outside the Northwest.  According to my Google Analytics report, some folks east of Gresham actually read this blog from time to time.  If I were them, I’d quickly tire of reading about beer that’s not available to me.  So my goal is to write about beer they can find.  As a plus, maybe I'll expose fellow Oregonians to what's available beyond the borders of the Beaver state.  The fun of traveling is trying something new, right?

So my first wave of “Beyond the Northwest” beers will include brews from:

As far as I’m aware, none of these breweries distribute in Oregon.  I expect someone will correct me if I’m wrong.  Look for beer from these brewers in my posts.  So for all of the beer lovers outside of Oregon, this Bud’s for you….

What are your favorite breweries that don't sell beer in Oregon?

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Review: Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing

Old Rasputin
North Coast Brewing Co. — Fort Bragg, CA

  • Style:  Russian Imperial Stout
  • Bitterness:  75 IBU
  • ABV: 9.0%
  • Malts:  Not provided
  • Hops:  Not provided
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle

Description:  "Produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia's Catherine the Great, Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It's a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish." — North Coast Brewing Co.

The tasting:   Near black in color.  When I held it up to the light, nothing passed through.  The tan head had very fine bubbles, dissipated very slowly, and left lacing all over the glass.  When the head subsided, it made an interesting cloud-like formation in my glass.  Aroma of roasted malt, alcohol, and licorice.  Deep roasted malts, alcohol, and a piney hop bitterness were dominant in flavor.  Notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, and espresso played nicely in the background.  At first, the taste of alcohol was "in your face".  But after a few more sips, it seemed to mellow out.  Medium bodied, with a creamy mouth feel, it finished with roasted malt and hop bitterness—and of course, the warming alcohol.  This is one that you'll want to take some time with and slowly savor.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!   I'd love to cellar Old Rasputin for a year or two and see what happens.  I expect the alcohol and hops would round out nicely and loose a bit of their edge.  I really enjoyed sampling this and other Imperial Stouts.  North Coast has released special barrel-aged versions of Old Rasputin.  I'd love to taste one of those...

Have you tried Old Rasputin or any other North Coast brews?

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Samuel Adams Category 23

OK, how cool is this?   Two of my favorite things combined into onehomebrew and mixed six-packs!   Samuel Adams Category 23 Variety six-packs are now hitting shelves across the country.  This is your ticket to the sample the winning beers from Samuel Adams' 2010 Longshot American Homebrew Contest.

These talented homebrewers earned the unique opportunity to work with Samuel Adams brewers to produce their beer on a commercial scale.  I will have the pleasure of tasting and writing about each of the beers over the next week.

Do you have an amazing original homebrew recipe?  If so, enter it into the 2011 Longshot Contest.  See the press release below for more details.  Maybe next year we'll see your handsome mug on one of these bottles!

4/5 update:   I finished reviewing all three beers.  This is a great variety pack!  I really enjoyed the diverse styles.  If you want something different, I highly recommend you pick it up.  These homebrewers have crafted beer that's as good, if not better, than professionally brewed beer.  My favorite of the bunch is Honey B's Lavender Ale.  It gets my top prize because it's very unique.  The layering of subtle flavors is exceptional.  Give this six-pack a try.  You won't be sorry! 

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March 22, 2011

(Boston, MA) — With the 2011 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest – Category 23 Variety six-pack hitting shelves this month, drinkers nationwide can taste the two innovative homebrews that triumphed over more than 700 competitors to win the 2010 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest. Samuel Adams founder and brewer Jim Koch tapped homebrewers nationwide to think outside the box and develop a “Category 23″ style beer unlike any other. Georgia resident Richard Roper’s Friar Hop Ale and Illinois resident Rodney Kibzey’s Blackened Hops beer were named the 2010 winners at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

In addition to Richard and Rodney’s winning brews, Samuel Adams also honors Employee Homebrew Winner Caitlin DeClercq for her Honey B’s Lavender Wheat beer. All three winning homebrewers had the opportunity to brew alongside the Samuel Adams brewers in Boston. Their recipes were bottled and are now available nationally in the 2011 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest – Category 23 Variety six-pack.

In the 2011 American Homebrew Contest, the brewers are accepting entries across all 23 categories, allowing devoted homebrewers to perfect their recipe for a traditional style, or brew something totally out-of-the-ordinary. Creative beer lovers are encouraged to try their hand at a shot in the spotlight, and on the shelves, by submitting their original brews between May 9 and May 20, 2011. Two winning beers will be chosen from all of the entries and the lucky homebrewers will have their brews made available nationwide in 2012, just as Richard and Rodney are experiencing now with their win in the 2010 American Homebrew Contest.

“I started homebrewing the first batch of Samuel Adams Boston Lager in my kitchen 27 years ago, and ever since then I’ve been passionate about creating unique and interesting brews that challenge the perception of what beer can be,” said Samuel Adams founder and brewer Jim Koch. “We asked homebrewers to really push beer’s boundaries and brew their own one-of-a-kind recipes. I was very impressed by the quality and creativity of the homebrew entries submitted to the first Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest – Category 23; Richard Roper’s Friar Hop Ale, Rodney Kibzey’s Blackened Hops and Caitlin DeClercq’s Honey B’s Lavender Wheat are all exceptional beers that will give American craft beer drinkers an opportunity to taste interesting ingredients and flavors that they may have never expected in a beer. The response and creativity were overwhelming and I look forward to seeing what other great brews homebrewers will come up with in the 2011 Contest.”

For more than 15 years, Samuel Adams employees have competed in their own annual homebrew competition. The contest challenges Samuel Adams employees to channel their passion and knowledge for craft beer by experimenting in their own kitchens. Once all the employee homebrews are submitted, Jim and the other brewers at Samuel Adams spend a day tasting the employees’ entries, and choose three finalists. Those three employee homebrewers attend the GABF and ask attendees to vote for their favorite brew, with Caitlin DeClercq’s besting the rest in 2010.

A panel of industry judges including Jason Alstrom and Todd Alstrom of Beer Advocate, Tom Dalldorf from Celebrator Beer News, John Holl, freelance beer writer, Julie Johnson of All About Beer, Bob Townsend from Southern Brew News, and Tony Forder of Ale Street News joined Jim Koch in selecting the consumer winners. Together, they selected the winning brews based on the American Homebrewers Association Beer Judge Certificate Program guidelines. Each beer was carefully evaluated on its aroma, appearance, flavor and mouthfeel as well as the overall uniqueness of the process, ingredients used and creativity.

The 2011 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest – Category 23 variety six-pack is available nationwide in select retail stores beginning in late March for a suggested retail price of $9.99. The variety pack will include two bottles each of Richard Roper’s Friar Hop Ale, Rodney Kibzey’s Blackened Hops, and Caitlin DeClercq’s Honey B’s Lavender Wheat.
The brewers are challenging homebrewers to perfect a favorite style or create a brew outside the traditional style guidelines, accepting entries across all 23 categories in the 2011 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest. Interested beer drinkers can visit for contest rules, regulations and information on purchasing a homebrewing kit. In addition, they can download Jim Koch’s video, “The Art of Homebrewing” offering his personal tips on making a successful homebrew. Winners will be announced at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.

While Samuel Adams is the country’s largest-selling craft beer, it accounts for just under one percent of the U.S. beer market. For more information, please visit

Review: Outburst, Pyramid Brewing

Pyramid Brewing Co. — Seattle, WA

  • Style:  Imperial IPA
  • Bitterness:  80 IBU
  • ABV: 8.5%
  • Malts:   Two row, Munich, Caramel, Carared
  • Hops:  Nugget, Chinook, Centennial, and Simcoe
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle
  • Price:  $7.50 (six-pack) at supermarket

Description:  "With big beer taste and massive hop flavor, Outburst lights spring's fuse. Dry-hopped for an extra rejuvenating rush, this imperial IPA causes a thirst-quenching commotion wherever it's poured. Ignite the season with a bang.”  — Pyramid Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:   This is part of my series on Spring Seasonals.  I haven't had an IPA in a while.  So when I opened the beer fridge to select today's brew, it was an easy choice.   I should write about my beer fridge sometime.  It's a full-sized freezer that was converted to a refrigerator using a $65 temperature controller.  I heart my beer fridge...

The tasting:  Deep orange red color (clear) with a white head that dissipated quickly, leaving small bits of lacing on the glass.  It looks stunning.  Big aroma of citrus, floral and tropical fruit hops (great dry hopping) that combine with a boozy smell that gives you a hint of what's in store.  The flavor is dominated by piney and grapefruit hops, but notes of caramel and bready malt come through.

Make no mistake, this is a bitter beer.  But I'd expect nothing less of an 80 IBU brew.  At the end of the taste, the alcohol kicks in and provides a warming sensation.  Outburst is medium bodied, has medium carbonation, and a slightly effervescent mouth feel.  It finishes with piney hop bitterness and alcohol that both linger.  For a bitter, 8.5% ABV brew, it's very drinkable.  Handle with care

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!   Kudos to the Pyramid crew!  Not only is Outburst a solid Imperial IPA, it's an amazing value.  I'm not aware of another Imperial IPA priced at $7-$8 for a six-pack.  I hope Pyramid plans to make Outburst a year-round beer—they have a winner here.  If you want to try it, you better move quickly.  It's already starting to disappear to make room for Pyramid's Summer seasonal, Curve Ball.

My colleague Bill, from It's Pub Night, just conducted a blind Imperial IPA tasting which pitted Outburst against heavyweights Tricerahops from Ninkasi and Ace of Spades from Hopworks.  Who won the Battle Royle??  Check it out.

Have you tried any Outburst?  What did you think?

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