First up was THE LOST ABBEY SAISON BLANC (2013) - Beer # 589 in my Big Year. Being the fancier sibling of Port Brewing, all of The Lost Abbey beers are corked, not capped. I needed a wine opener to get the cork out of this one, as it was determined not to cooperate. Saisons, along with IPAs, are my "go to" beers for hot weekend afternoons outside. Labeled as a brew made with golden raisins and white pepper, which didn't sound particularly appealing, I was expecting some odd, new twist. But the only truly odd twist was trying to get the cork out of the bottle. This was a straight forward, no-nonsense saison. Not amazing, not disappointing... it just "was", in a very zen sense. There was a hint of that farmhouse wild ale sourness to it, but otherwise it's a decent, easy drinking beer.
Next up was the ALMANAC CLUSTER FRESH HOP IPA. This one didn't count towards my Big Year, since I already tried it a few months ago on tap at the Boneyard Bistro in Sherman Oaks (for the record, it was Big Year Beer # 482). For the first time I found a bottle last week, and since most IPAs should be enjoyed ASAP, today was the day. I liked it on tap, but opening this bottle was a much different experience. The Wife immediately stated, "Right away, this smells like a pet store. It's like Petco. I'm calling this the Petco Beer."
Strangely enough, I knew exactly what she was referring to. And even more strangely, not in a bad way. It smells real, like wheat fields and pastures. Once I blocked out the mental image of being surrounded by hamster cages, I appreciated the wet-hopped funk of it. Musty. Earthy. Wet. Rural. Deep, rich, and damn tasty.
Since The Wife didn't love the pet store beer as much as I did, I opted for a sure fire ace-in-the-hole: GREAT DIVIDE CHOCOLATE OAK AGED YETI - Beer # 590 in my Big Year. Aside from having the best possible name for a series of stouts, Great Divide is consistent in delivering solid braus from Colorado. As expected, this is dessert. The chocolate is predominant, actually a tad too predominant for my tastes, but I can't exactly complain about that when I purchased a bottle that plainly states "CHOCOLATE" across the top in big, bold letters. One of my favorite desserts is an affogato, which is hot espresso over a bowl of vanilla gelatto. Next time, I'm using this Chocolate Stout in place of the espresso. It will taste amazing, and as The Mrs. pointed out, the ice cream won't melt.
ALMANAC CLUSTER FRESH HOP IPA
GORDON LIGHTFOOT "Sundown" LP
The musty, rustic, rural character of the Almanac Cluster IPA is perfect on a warm, lazy, weekend afternoon with the folksy, mildly intense stylings of the great Gordon Lightfoot. This album contains the hits you love, "Carefree Highway" and "Sundown", but the deep cuts are equally as satisfying. I'm already cultivating the middle-aged hippie beard, but this pairing makes me seriously consider taking it a step further, by sporting a pair of mandals (I don't have enough hair to cultivate the equally embarrassing balding-middle-aged-guy-ponytail).