Birthday Beer Reviews | Part 1

I love you. That’s right, you. And not only for the reasons I’ll be discussing in the next paragraph, but also because you take time out of your day (that could be spent working or spelunking or whatever) to visit this website and read my ramblings. As much as writers like to say they write for themselves, most (including me) really write for you, the reader. Without you, I might as well board myself up in a dingy basement and write limericks to myself about my literary cleverness (such as it is). So thank you for giving me a reason to step outside my head and put these wild words on paper.

As for the more immediate reason, I must refer back to a two-week-old article: My shameless request for birthday beer was mostly a joke — I didn’t think anyone would be kind enough to do it, but several of you did! I was nearly overwhelmed with gushy feelings of good will toward men and similar nonsense (but then I had to drive on a freeway during rush hour and things returned to normal). My good friend Ryan — from the guest review — brought beer to my birthday dinner; out-of-state ally Ben put in an order for a six-pack plus one at his local Bevmo (which I then picked up at mine); and my super-generous pals Alex and Dave gave me a gift card for my favorite beer store. Finally, my wonderful wife, Erin, bought me a kickass Stone goblet. As in, a goblet from Stone brewery. It’s made of glass.

Birthday Beer No. 1: Fuller’s Vintage Ale

From: Ryan Martinson, fellow beer geek

Ryan also gave me a bottle of La Trappe Dubbel, but after drinking Fuller’s Vintage Ale, I apparently couldn’t be bothered to write more tasting notes. I vaguely remember the dubbel being good, though.

If you remember my Fuller’s ESB review, you know that I love this brewery. They make classic British beers, and they do it well. Thus, I knew when I saw this beer that the brewery wouldn’t let me down; the fancy box makes it look like a miniaturized bottle of scotch (you know, the pricey stuff behind the glass).

Fuller’s Vintage Ale pours an iridescent shade of brown — when the light hits, it looks like caramel. The head seems a bit average in comparison, but its aromas make up for that: grapes, raisins, awesome, and honey. Its flavors mostly follow suit, but additions include licorice and hints of chocolate. It makes for a smooth, rich, velvety beer that I enjoyed thoroughly. In fact, the beer reminds me of Fuller’s ESB mixed with another favorite, Old Chub. I definitely recommend this one. Thanks, Ryan!

Birthday Beer No. 2: Saison du BUFF (Stone/Dogfish Head/Victory)

From: Ben Rice, fellow beer geek

Now this one sounds promising. A saison — which I recently added to my list of favorite styles — made by an all-star team of craft breweries: Stone, Dogfish Head, and Victory. How can it go wrong? Well, saisons are often delicate beers, and American breweries, despite all their lovable qualities, are sometimes known for their ham-handed interpretations of Belgian styles (with several noteworthy exceptions, of course), so I suppose a lot could go wrong. I’ll just go ahead and try it.

This beer looks crisp in my glass (my new goblet!); it’s golden orange with a thin, bubbly head — which firms up after a minute or two and refuses to budge. Weird. I don’t think I’ve ever seen foam change from fizzy to creamy so fast. Anyway, despite those three names on the bottle, this smells like a saison by Stone. Floral, citric hops dominate the nose, which is unusual for this style (but not for Stone beers). To be fair, I also detect some fresh, herby scents that balance it out a bit.

On the first sip, it kicks you in the teeth with bitter, medicinal citrus, along with something sweet that blends with the bitter and makes it taste like tonic water. Stone’s hand is definitely felt heaviest on this one: I can taste traces of the style’s typical spicy fruitiness, and these flavors emerge more as the beer warms (I think they tried to boost it by adding rosemary, thyme, and other herbs, which I can definitely taste), but overall this seems like a saison injected with hop-infused steroids. It isn’t bad — hell, I finished my glass without hesitation or assistance — but personally, I thought the style was just fine the way it was. Perhaps my expectations would’ve been different if this had been marketed as a saison-IPA hybrid, because that’s kinda what it tastes like. Thanks nonetheless, Ben! I always love trying odd new beers, even if such experiments don’t always succeed on every level. Plus, it gave Erin a chance to snap that rad photo of the bottle.

4 Responses to “Birthday Beer Reviews | Part 1”
  1. Jeremy Deal says:

    Tell Erin that really is a pretty sweet ass photo… I’m jealous!!! I feel like an arse for not sending you beer, can we just say I owe you double next year since we’re still doing the baby-bambi leg shuffle monetarily as we’re learning to be totally 100% self-employed as a couple? If not, then go to he…. I mean, I understand your anger then, but hopefully we’ll be cool. You can come to Harry Potter land in October with me for my bday… free place to stay and all 🙂 I want beer now. Every time I read your blog. Dangit.

    • Scott says:

      Good! That’s kind of the idea. 🙂

      There’s no reason to feel bad or feel as though you owe me something. When next we meet, we’ll simply have a few beers and call it even. And Erin thanks you for the compliment!

  2. Ben says:

    sorry that beer wasn’t that great. i guess that explained its pricetag (shockingly low given the parties involved). i expect they’re probably going to try it again at a later time with some revisions. hopefully, anyway.

    • Scott says:

      No need to apologize, my friend. As I said, I was thrilled to get and try it! To be honest, I felt really bad criticizing a gift, but I didn’t want to lie about it either, since there is a remote chance someone might be basing their decision about buying it on my appraisal. But seriously, thanks so much. I plan to give the other part of your gift a glowing review next week!

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