Ah, Maker's Mark. What more can I say? You were one of the first bourbons I ever had. The first of many to be paired with a cigar and gently cradled in an icy glass on an old porch overlooking the lake. And you quickly became a go-to sipper whenever you went on sale.
But now... I think you've been replaced.
Not to worry though. I'm staying in the family. In fact, my new favorite corn whisky is your (barely) older brother. Maker's 46, despite it's steep price hike when compared to Maker's Mark ($47.99 vs. $24.99), is nothing more than their standard whisky aged for a few extra weeks with seared french oak staves. These staves add to the smooth, vanilla flavors of the whisky, and the searing caramelizes the sugars in the wood, increasing the sweetness and removing all trace of bitterness.
There's no such thing as a bad tripel, that's just a fact of life. So when I saw Left Coast Brewing Company's Asylum Tripel at P.F. Chang's on an outing with some of my fellow MBA students, there was no question as to what I would order. It didn't matter that I had never heard of this brewery before. A tripel, if you don't already know, refers to a strong pale ale, typically made with a yeast that originates in Belgium, and up to three times the normal amount of malt. For those more familiar with the darker Belgian dubbel's or quad's, you may be in for a surprise when you see the light colored liquid pouring into your glass. The tripel is in a family all its own.
Left Coast Brewing Company produces six regular brews, including Asylum, and four seasonals. They began brewing in 2004, and seem to be growing at a steady pace (not surprising after tasting this delicious tripel). If you ever happen to be in San Clemente on a Tuesday or Sunday, be sure to check out their Bend and Brew Yoga series in the park.
Left Coast Brewing Asylum Tripel
Asylum Tripel is an explosion of fruits and spices with a thirst-quenching creamy head that I can't recommend enough.
Nose: Whoa! Banana, tropical fruits
Taste: Banana nut bread, spices
If I could make one bourbon related wish come true, it would be to taste all the different blends and varieties side-by-side. While I'm waiting for that to happen... I did manage to do a double tasting of Bulleit and Four Roses. These are widely available bourbons that you can usually find in the $15-25 range (for the lower price, you'll have to wait for a sale), and both are quite drinkable. I'll write up my tasting notes at the end of this post, but first, a little about each bourbon:
"How can a $10 whiskey be this good?" That was my first thought upon taking a sip of this golden nectar, which was quickly followed by a second: "Why have I never tried this before?" Dipping below $17 with any liquor is always a little questionable, whether it's whiskey, vodka, tequila or something else, but occasionally you find a gem. And Rebel Yell bourbon is in that category.
I've already reviewed the now-famous Not Your Father's Root Beer (here), now here's a guest post from my friend and fellow beer lover Hunter Williams, to review Not Your Father's Ginger Ale:
Maybe it was the garlic that I had just finished chopping, or the parsley in the delicious quinoa salad my wife had just made, but my first whiff of New Belgium’s Pumpkick was an instant flash forward to the fourth Thursday in November. This feels a little early to be thinking about Thanksgiving, but who am I to argue with one of my favorite Colorado breweries? This is the first Pumpkin beer on the shelf at the local Trader Joe's, so maybe they're just getting a jump on the competition.
Smart business move.
Every Fall, my wife and I make our way up from the crowded streets of Los Angeles to the rustic mountain region known as Oak Glen. Only about an hour and a half directly east of downtown, the change in scenery is drastic as you drive up to Oak Glen's 4,700 foot elevation from the flat plain of San Bernardino County. Palm trees, scrub brush and desert give way to oak and pine on the windy mountain road, and you know you have arrived when you begin to see signs for apple orchards, cider mills, and seasonal harvest festivals.
When I first saw a stack of Not Your Father's Root Beer boxes in the beer aisle I thought, "That's clever... marketing craft root beer to craft beer lovers." Then I got a phone call from a friend in Indianapolis. "I just came back from Boston. They were selling this alcoholic root beer, and you HAVE to try it!" He was raving about Not Your Father's Root Beer, and said this is the first beer in a long time that he liked so much that he had trouble sharing it with his friends (when you run into this problem, the solution is simple: buy another six pack).
The next day, I hopped on my red dyno-glide beach cruiser and pedaled back to the store to try some for myself.
Watermelon beer? Er... yes? Maybe? No? It was right there on the shelf, and I wasn't quite sure how to respond. Was this another gimmicky hipster beer, designed for the trendy kids on cool bicycles? Or could this actually be something worth sipping on the back porch while waiting for the corn to reach it's state of charcoal perfection on the grill?
Seeing my confusion, a helpful Trader Joe's employee in a Hawaiian print shirt skipped over to my side. "Watermelon beer. It's delicious. I tried some last time it was in. Better get it now, this stuff goes so fast." With a twirl, she was gone.