Beer bloggers and mainstream press alike wrote frenzied articles when this beer made a rare SoCal appearance within the last year at select stores, at prices topping $100 for six bottles. Needless to say, I was in a financial crunch at the time, and as tempting as the rarity was, I could not justify dropping 1/3 of a car payment on a six pack of beer. The window of opportunity closed, and these days one empty bottle of Westvleteren XII has been known to sell for $50 on eBay.
Jump to present day, I'm in a kitchen in the funky 'burb of Eagle Rock, and my pals pull this wild card out of the hat. A gift to Ryan from guru Dave Witte, he generously offers to split it between the four of us. The cap is popped, and without warning it starts foaming out of the bottle uncontrollably. Quick on his feet, Ryan assesses the crisis, and immediately puts his mouth over the bottle to stop the flow. Sheepishly, with a full mouth of foam, Ryan says, "Sorry. Oh! But it's really good!"
We all realize our solitary bottle of The World's Best And Most Unattainable Beer has just spilled on the cheap 1972 counter top, and we assess it's current value at $10. No one volunteers to lick the counter. Thankfully, the spillage is minor, and we enrich our taste buds with this rare treat.
Is it the greatest beer in the entire world? Well, the problem with that statement is the overwhelming expectation of a mind-blowing experience. Yes, it was an excellent Belgian Quad, and yes, I would happily drink it again if possible. I have nothing bad to say about it, but if I’m honestly judging my favorites, I would not claim this as the undisputed, all-time Number One champ. Sorry, I’m unrefined that way.
Our beering adventures did continue with THE BRUERY OUDE TART SOUR ALE WITH CHERRIES. I was in the company of sour fans, so I liberated this from my secret fridge to share. Tart, but crazily easy to drink. Delicious and smooth for a sour.
We followed with the EAGLE ROCK STIMULUS WITH INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE. The whole coffee stout trend has started to annoy me, but this is a different spin…. A coffee Amber ale. The perfect combo, I'm surprised I don't see more of these. Admittedly, it is a coffee bomb, so if you’re not in the mood for a bean beer, this should not be your first choice. Damn good.
The Eagle Rock Stimulus was a warm up for our group visit to the Eagle Rock Brewery tasting room. Tucked away in a back building at the end of an industrial block of Frogtown, you would never know this place existed unless you’re specifically looking for it. Once inside, the tasting room is inviting, comfortable, and non-pretentious. My pal Melanie from Pizza Port was working the counter, and she & cohort Gio hooked us up with endless deliciousness. Hands down, my addiction for that evening was the POPULIST IPA ON NITRO. The standard Populist IPA on its own is delicious, but on nitrogen it’s a completely different beast… it maintains the hoppy bite with way more complexities. I’m not going to bore you with stupid “tasting notes”. It’s freakin’ bad ass.
After 90 minutes, we were all semi-tanked, and acted accordingly… like spoiled, drunken infants. While Melanie & Gio closed up shop, we barged into the brewing room and improvised our own tour of non-expertise.... "So, that tank is full of beer that goes to that tank and then to that tank and that's how beer is made."
The group tasting & visit to Eagle Rock was the pinnacle of a thoroughly boozy weekend filled with many new brews including:
*CRAFTSMAN HOLIDAY SPRUCE ALE – Awesome. This Pasadena-based, low-key operation never fails to disappoint. A spiced ale I actually like (which is rare).
*GRAND TETON COMING HOME HOLIDAY ALE – Heck yes.
*NORTH COAST XXV ANNIVERSARY ALE – Sadly, I found this one ordinary and non-memorable.
*SMUTTYNOSE RHYE IPA – Smuttynose on the West Coast??
*ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING WILD TURKEY BOURBON BARREL AGED STOUT – Tastes as good as it sounds.
*MONKISH BREWING CO. SHAOLIN FIST – A spiced ale that I didn’t love, although I love this brewery in general.
*BROUWERIJ WEST SAISON EXTRA – Strangely opaque and milky. Looks like the albino cousin of an imperial stout. Tastes like the perfume counter at Macy's.
But these two brews blew me away & I classify them as Exceptional:
*BAYHAWK ALES ZAPPA BREWS NELSON DIPA – Wow, what a treat! I picked this because I wanted to try a new, local IPA, but it was so much better than I would have ever guessed. Semi-skunky and perfectly balanced in the way you’d expect from a solid SoCal Double IPA. Then again I'm a sucker for anything brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops.
*LAGUNITAS STOUT AGED IN RYE WHISKEY BARRELS – Sweet Jesus, what a beer! I’ve never heard of a barrel aged Lagunitas. Everything from this brewery is top notch , and with that said, this even surpassed my already high expectations. Thick like motor oil, with a hint of coffee, and a ton of woodsy barrel goodness. If this beer was a woman, I would have already asked it to marry me because I always want it by my side.
Sadly, none of these count towards my next Big Year. But what am I supposed to do? NOT enjoy amazing brews for the next two weeks? Are you kidding? Santa isn’t the only jolly, bearded, fat man in this household.