Make sure to try these:
- Bell's Porter. I was excited to see Bell's was coming, but slightly disappointed that they sent a pedestrian selection like this. Familiar style, true, but perfectly executed--roasty, creamy, delicious. When you crave a good porter, this is the beer you're thinking of.
- Roots Calypso. This beer is inspired by the cuisine of the caribbean, and it is a perfect evocation. It smells dangerously peppery, but the heat is subdued, and marries beautifully with the sweetness of the apricot. Won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a tour de force of high-concept brewing.
- Rock Bottom Congo Queen. This is a great beer to have after your mouth is feeling coated and you want a light palate cleanser. There are many herbs in the beer, but principally subtle use of juniper berries, which give it a minty-fresh flavor. Since that's not what people normally look for in beer, I'll add that it was tasty and welcome.
- Lagunitas Hop Stoopid. I just kept taking hits off the aroma before I tried this beer--it was like someone had plunked a pinecone in my cup. The beer is surprisingly gentle and the hops are not biting. It's a piney experience, and almost made me feel transported to the forest. I could recommend this to nearly everyone and know they'd thank me. (The previous two are ... riskier recommendations.)
- Flying Fish Dubbel. A gentle beer that was made with cherries--a fact I had missed. They are subtle, but add a nice layer of interest.
- Golden Valley Cote d'Or. This is another fermentation away from perfect. It was wonderful at the start--spicy, zesty, slightly sweet, and heady, but it finished with a cloying final note. If it could ferment out some more, it would dry and become delicious.
- Rogue Glen. Like Hop Stoopid, this was a surprisingly approachable big beer. Totally in balance, creamy and very tasty. Definitely consider short-listing it.
- Caldera Ginger Ale. I admired this beer but considered it ultimately a noble failure. Ginger can overwhelm a beer, but Caldera got it just right. Unfortunately, the rest of the beer was a little underdeveloped and finished with a hollow note. Fred Eckhardt, sitting across the table, suggested it could have used dry hopping. Good suggestion.
- BridgePort Hop Czar. This was the second-to-last beer of the 18, and I found it slightly muddy, but overall tasty. I don't deny that the muddiness could have been from my side, not the beer's.
- Surly Coffee Bender. This one got appreciative nods and smiles, but I found it tasted like carbonated coffee. Good coffee--mighty good coffee, but not really like beer.
- Fifty Fifty White. This was one of those beers I wanted to like but found I couldn't. It was almost mediciney in its herbal intensity.
- Collaborator Rye. (Not sure what the actual name is.) This is a good beer to sample if you're unsure what rye tastes like. That very sharp, dry note--that's it. To my palate, this beer was a bit too much of everything. Still, once you try it, you'll never mistake rye again.
- Cascade Raspberry Wheat. More interesting than I expected, but I expected it to be terrible. You'll know by the name if it's for you or not.
- Widmer Full Nelson. Now I know what New Zealand's Nelson hops taste like. Sort of a cross between oranges and cat pee. Mmmm, no.
- Hopworks Pilsner. I've had this at the brewery and it was fine, if uninspired. Our batch had a problem though--the cabbagy, cooked vegetable quality of DMS. Maybe just a bad keg?
- McMenamins Madman Jack's Insane. I have to say I have only once ever smelled a beer worse than this, and it was a spoiled batch of homebrew I made early on. Smells like ... like .... Well, I don't know, but I never want to smell it again. The flavor might be tolerable, but I couldn't get past the nose.
What have you been trying? What's good? What's to be avoided? Tomorrow's my big day, and on Saturday I'll post more thoughts. Keep the chatter up!