Archive for December, 2010

Salute to Beer

Saturday, June 18th,

2011 San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura, CA.

12Noon – 6pm.


Mission Street: Pale Ale and IPA

I am giving you a twofer this week reviewing two offerings found only at Trader Joe’s: Mission Street Pale Ale and Mission Street India Pale Ale.  What makes these beers local?  Well, two things make these beers local in my book. First, there are umpteen TJ’s in Ventura County. I know that is a stretch especially since you can find TJ’s all around the country but since you can probably find one within a 30 or 40 minute drive I classify that as local.  Secondly and most valid reason is that these beers are contract brewed by Firestone Walker’s breweries just up the 101 in Buellton and Paso Robles.   

All of the Trader Joe’s branded beers are contract brewed and I haven’t found one that wasn’t a solid well brewed beer.  With brewers like Firestone Walker, Gordan Biersch and Montreal’s Unibroue routinely contributing to TJ’s beer line it isn’t hard understand why that is.

On to the reviews:

Mission St. Pale Ale is a wonderful session beer.  A session beer is a beer that is light both in body and ABV and can be enjoyed in moderation with little worry of becoming inebriated.  Mission St. Pale Ale poured a golden straw color with a head filled with tight white bubbles that lasted throughout the pint.  The first whiff was full of hops and as that dissipated the aroma settled into a mouth watering mix of hops and malt.  The beer has a moderate hop bite though not as pronounced as a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  The hops are tamped back by a firm malt backbone but finishes dry.  The dry finish and a lingering hop taste do nothing to quench your thirst but don’t worry at 4.6% ABV you can enjoy a few of these before its time to go home.



Back in October I raved about Firestone Walker’s Union Jack as my go to beer (one that I stock and drink when my homebrew is gone) but it has been replaced by Mission Street IPA.  The good news for Firestone Walker is that it was replaced by another one of THEIR beers. 

Mission St. IPA poured a crystal clear dark straw with an off-white head.  The aroma was full of citrus hops though not as pronounced as Union Jack.  The beer has a great citrus hop flavor (a mix of grapefruit and tangerine) and the sharp piney bitterness that is rounded off by a solid malt backbone.  This is a really good example of an American IPA and while I don’t have the specific IBU for this IPA it is well within the hop guidelines.  At 6.1% ABV Mission Street IPA is right in the middle of the ABV range but take care not to enjoy this one too much because it will sneak up on you.  All in all this is a great everyday beer and at $5.99 a sixer you can’t afford to miss this beer. 


This and That

I will be doing something a little different for my review this week. I won’t be reviewing any beer but I will be reviewing several beer related items.

The first item I wanted to review this week was a new beer location in Camarillo.  Located inside the Village Commons Market the BEER CAVE is a welcome addition to the beer scene in Ventura County.  This store gets it right.  None of the beer is outside the cooler (at least the good stuff) AND the cooler is dimly lit.  This helps to significantly reduce any heat or light damage that can occur when beer is left out on the shelves for even a short period of time.  They also have “Cave Coats” for you to wear if you are just browsing and want to or need to linger in the cooler.

Another thing that tells me the folks at Village Commons Market get craft beer is they were just getting ready to put BeerAdvocate rating tags on the beer.  How many times have you been in a store where there are Wine Spectator ratings all over the place and then you go to the beer section and you are left to fend for yourself?  Keep in mind though; these ratings will only compare beers that are the same stylistically. Last thing, you can tell a lot about a person by the books they leave around the house.  When I purchased my sixer of Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin I noticed that there were three different beer books on the counter. This tells me that they are interested in beer and it doesn’t take much reading in any of those books to become an authority on any given beer.  Who knows, maybe someday they will write a beer blog.   If you stop in, mention you heard about them here at HopHeadSaid.

The second item is a beer review site called  This weekend I was listening to a podcast interview with them on The Brewing Network so I decided to see what they were all about. Pintly is way more than a review site, it is a recommendation site.  Think of it as the Pandora for beer drinkers.  Here is how you get started, sign up (it’s free) spend one minute (literally that is all it takes) to rate 20 beers they pick.  From there they will make recommendations to you based on the beers you liked.  The more beers you rate the better the recommendations for you will be.  It is a great way for newbie craft beer drinkers to get beer recommendations when they are out and about.  I would set up the account from your computer first (a little more convenient) but then they have apps for your favorite phone so you can take it with you anywhere.  You can also set up wish lists (remember GOOD beer makes GREAT gifts) and share your beer reviews with friends.  My user name is hopheadsaid become my friend and see what my top choices are.

Lastly, it is time for the celebration/holiday/winter warmer seasonal beers.  Some of the best flavorful and malty beers of the year come to life in the winter months.  This is the time of year when many breweries will spice up their regulars or brew special batches of higher alcohol beers to keep you warm on a long winter’s night.  Here are a few suggestions:

Crisp Medium Body:Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Full Sail Wassail
New Belgium Brewing 2 below
Pyramid Snow Cap
Red Hook Winterhook
Summit Brewing Winter Ale
 Full Bodied Sippers:Full Sail  Old Boardhead
Kulmbacher Eisbock
Wychwood Brewery Bah Humbug!
De Ranke Pere Noel
Avery The Czar
Great Divide Old Ruffian
Great Divide Yeti (oak aged)

Sierra Nevada                        Big Foot Barleywine

Happy Holidays!

Big Island Imperial Pale Ale- 2010 Bourbon Barrel Aged

Before I get started with the review I want to talk about the term imperial.  You will find the term imperial used in many styles and what this really means is that one or more of the beers attributes is out of the accepted style guidelines. More bitterness and/or more malt and/or more alcohol, do you get the picture?  The most common beer styles that use this label are IPA’s and Stouts.

Imperial IPA’s(also known as Double IPA or DIPA) are probably my favorite beers.  These are BIG beers.  They have BIG hop aromas and high IBU’s. Hops are used to balance the BIG malt base in these beers.  The malt base in these beers also produces a lot of sugar that is then converted to alcohol and so these beers have BIG ABV’s.  Any one of these BIG’s can be too much on their own so it is up to the brewmaster to find that sweet spot and create one BIG balanced beer.

Big Island Imperial Pale Ale just wasn’t big enough for the brewers at Island Brewing Co.  No siree.  They decided they should take one of their biggest beers and make it a little more complex by aging it in bourbon barrels.  As a point of clarification, sometimes there is a small amount of bourbon left over in the barrels that can affect the flavor of the beer.  However, the bourbon flavor and aroma usually comes from the beer’s direct contact with the bourbon barrel’s “marinated” wood.  The flavor and aroma imparted in the beer are influenced by the age of the barrels (how many batches have been conditioned in it) and the amount of time the beer spends in the barrels.  At any rate my reaction to this beer is something that can best be explained in this quote from the movie THE CHRISTMAS STORY when Ralphie is helping his dad change a tire.  Only I said this when I took my first drink…

Oooh fuuudge!”
Only I didn’t say “Fudge.” I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!

This is one big and tasty beer but let me start with the nitty gritty.  This is a small special release (I had bottle 236 of 275) aged in bourbon barrels which takes up a lot of space and energy for conditioning and thus demands a premium price. A 650ml bottle or “bomber” costs $25. Don’t let that price scare you away after all you aren’t going to be drinking this beer every day after work.  However, this is a great special occasion beer. Also this beer is so big (taste and alcohol) that you will want to share it with one or two friends.  Please don’t sit down and drink this all by yourself, it is NOT a Bud Light and you are not at a kegger.

True to Imperial IPA’s it poured deep dark amber with a small lacy head (alcohol can inhibit the proteins needed to form a thick dense head) and the aroma screamed “I’ve been aged in a bourbon barrel”.  There might have been hops there but they were certainly overpowered by the bourbon.  The beer was malty and smooth with a warming alcohol sensation.  The malt was quickly replaced by a hop bitterness that was then quickly replaced by bourbon.  By the end of my glass (I shared the bomber with one other person) the beer started to get a little over the top.  That is an incredible statement for me and those that know me can attest to that but it is true.  I think if I had shared it with one other person and enjoyed an 8-10 oz pour instead of 12-14 oz pour I wouldn’t have hit the wall with this beer.  My suggestion for you is to enjoy this BIG beer in small pours and enjoy it you will.