Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

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Location: Upstate New York, United States

Favorite Beers: Orval, Samuel Smith, Duvel, Hennepin, Oude Gueze, Chimay, Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam, and anything made by Trappist monks.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Lucky Baldwins

So I took myself to this widely-regarded pub in Pasadena. I was going to take Peter but he's unwell, so I'll take him out there in another couple days. They have this incredible beer selection. My high-minded goal was to go out and carefully, critically, thoughtfully review the Craftsman beer line-up--the little-known, Pasadena, micro-micro-brewery treasure. I figured there'd be three or four of their beers and I'd geek out and drink and learn from them. But there is this problem with beer tasting. Wine tasters spit, you know. . . So the evening degenerated, as other tasting events I've been involved with have been wont to do. Anyway, here's what I had. . .

Craftsman Orange Grove Ale: I suppressed my aversion to non-lambic fruit beers and thought this'd be an interesting starter. Its aesthetics are pretty pitiful: cloudy, dirty, pale brown, gnarly, dishwater looking. One of the most unattractive beers I've ever seen. Neat taste though. Aromatically, it's like a juicy, delicate, fresh-cut orange--there must be juice and zest in the secondary ferment. The palate is a blend of crisp orange and malt. The finish swings back toward earthy malt, with a balancing hint of acidity. So that was interesting. I didn't love it, but it was interesting.

Craftsman Poppy Fields: This is a pale ale. By the way, they had two wheat beers from Craftsman, but I never got to them. Craftsman's profoundly unhelpful website, doesn't clarify anything about their beers. I'm guessing this has got poppy seeds in it or something offbeat? Couldn't tell. I was underwhelmed by this beer. Nice, moderate, Englishy hopping, clean even body, but nothing exciting.

Around this time, I had some spectacular chips, in the English sense, with malt vinegar on some and HP sauce on others. What is HP sauce? It's awesome.

Craftsman Triple White Sage: This was about what I remembered it to be. They served it in a nice tulipy glass, thank god. It had lovely lacework, was fairly pale, with nice clarity. There's massive sage in the nose, to the extent that the beer smells faintly like roast chicken by association. Lovely melony fruit; rich, complex, sagey palate; viscous, lingering finish. A totally distinctive beer.

Guldenberg: Because they had a wicked Belgian selection (I'm going back for some De Ranke Kriek), I got a Guldenberg, but this was a disappointment overall. Has this beer suffered from the yeast switchover?? It was pretty pale with a nice head. The nose struck me as really compelling for a while, with some sour elements popping in for brief appearances, but as it warmed up I got less interesting stuff out of it. The palate seemed slightly listless and cidery, and the overall impression of the beer swung toward molassesy malt. I still jotted down that it was complex, but I didn't really dig it. I'm annoyed because I don't know how much of this was the beer and how much of it was palate burnout. I'm also struck by how distracting pubs are. It's hard to focus on your beer sometimes. There were cool, snappy LA people everywhere and the pub had just awesome, unpredictable, offbeat music. So the Guldenberg suffered, but I also think it was only an OK beer.

And, in an ill-advised move, I topped things off with a Craftsman IPA. Again, was I just distracted? My first tasting note is: "Great fucking music." Underlined. Anyway I thought the IPA was good, noting nice, piney hops and exceptional dryness. It was not amazing, but quite well done.

So at this point, I went for a long stroll to sober up and stopped and had a snack. I thought I was about good to go after a while and went to the car where I had an extra 35 to 40 minutes to sober up (which was doubtless a good thing) since the garage was a total disaster. I wanted to pass the time and Katrina and Kier kindly obliged by listening to me bitch about the garage. I finally escaped and then proceeded to get horribly, horribly, horribly lost. How hard can it be to find a freeway, any goddamn freeway, in LA??? Well, I couldn't do it. I'm not a master of LA by any means, but if I can find a freeway, I get basically where they're going, by and large, and can usually cope.

So I spent some 45 minutes hopelessly noodling around, cruising through both sketchy neighborhoods and crazy-rich, people-with-servants-named-Brandt-inhabited Pasadena. Eventually, I gave up and called Kier, who Google-mapped me home. Thanks, Dude. Sometimes, there's a man--I don't wanna say a hero, cuz what's a hero? But sometimes there's a man . . . Anyway, Kier was the man for this particular time and place, otherwise I'd still be sleeping in the parking lot of the Encino Jack-in-the-Box.


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