Yo-Ho Tokyo Black: A Japanese fridge holdout

Next up, Tokyo Black Porter from Yo-Ho Brewing Company:
tokyo black
I’ve been away. But with a Tokyo Black burning a hole in my fridge waiting to be reviewed and the recent death of one of the last Japanese Holdouts, Hiroo Onoda, how could I not write a review?
And sumo ass.

And there’s sumo ass.

Now when I say Japanese holdout, I’m not talking about the Japanese who signed up with other countries’ armed forces to fight Westerners. They’re just dicks. And I’m not talking about the ones who just decided not to go home. They probably just had really naggy wives. I’m talking about the real hard-asses who, without orders to the contrary, insisted the war was still on.
It’s hard to believe in this age of instant communication, but there used to be so many Japanese holdouts in Southeast Asia, for so long, that the Philippines were like a deadly Asian version of Colonial Williamsburg. Hell, Hiroo Onoda didn’t surrender until 1974. 19 freaking 74. 30 years after the war ended. 30 years without seeing a paycheck. 30 years of dismissing numerous air-dropped “The war is over!” leaflets as dastardly Allied trickeration. For 30 years, Hiroo persistently executed guerrilla “raids” on incredulous Philippine fisherman and farmers until his (former) commanding officer, now a bookstore owner, tracked him down in the Philippine mountains and ordered him to stand down. Only then did Hiroo surrender his sword, still-working rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition, grenades, and knife that his mom gave him to kill himself if he was captured.
Seriously, Mom.  I'm only going to the grocery store!

No, Mom. I don’t need the Seppuku knife. I’m only going to the grocery store!

Tokyo Black Porter pours dark, dark brown with a small khaki head that recedes to ring. It smells like chocolate, molasses, cream, and rich roasty coffee. It tastes like chocolate, cream, and char, and it’s a little drier than the nose indicated. The finish somewhat dry with a bit of lingering roast. It’s got pretty big flavor and fullness for a 5% ABV beer. I liked it.

The Haybag: Ah, so we’re at it again. I guess I’ll have to start paying attention now. I can’t even remember this beer.


Mikkeller Hoppy Lovin Christmas: Naughty Elf on the Shelf returns

Next up, Mikkeller Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas:mikkeller

Thanksgiving is over. You are now free to deck your halls without fear of snickering and dirty looks. Perhaps more importantly, Elf on the Shelf is back on the…er…shelf.

If you remember last year, Elf (or “Flappy” as he is named in our house) was working through some pretty serious substance abuse issues. Here are a couple reminders of Elf hitting rock bottom:

photo (93)

Veterinary prescription bottles are NOT elf-proof.

When he said he missed snow, I thought...wow.

When he said he missed snow, I thought…wow.

I have since found out that my naughty Elf posts were so popular that the Big Guy himself ran across them on Pinterest. Now, as a condition of his continued employment, Elf must undergo regular drug testing, and in the offseason he has been demoted to cleaning the stalls of the North Pole Reindeer Husbandry Unit.

Obviously, with Elf still drying out and me maybe being an eensy-weensy bit responsible for his downfall, there was some awkward tension the first couple days. However, Elf and I were chatting one night, and we’ve apparently found common ground. We both hate Sophie the Giraffe. I really can’t figure out for sure why Elf hates Sophie. I just figured it was a harmless manifestation of Elf’s crippling sociopathic narcissism…until I came downstairs late one night to inspect some racket and caught Elf doing this:

photo 1 (1)

I think I preferred the substance abuse.

Apparently, his anger isn’t quite as harmless as I suspected! Elf and I had a talk, and I hoped it sunk in, until the next day…

This is going to be a problem.

This is going to be a problem.

Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas is an IPA brewed with ginger and pine needles. It pours a slightly hazy orange-gold, with a dense and creamy off-white head that leaves decent lace. A first huff gives you a big rush of ripe, juicy, citrusy hops, which eventually fade a little to reveal some biscuity malt. At first the taste is mainly pine with some orange and grapefruit, then as it warms you get some ginger. While I don’t think I would immediately identify it as such without a mention on the label, there is definitely a certain gingery zippiness to it. It’s on the sweet end of the sweet-dry spectrum, but I certainly wouldn’t call it sweet. And while there is a piney aftertaste to it that lingers lightly, it is pretty darn drinkable.

I like. Even though I still find hops and Christmas to be strange bedfellows, there are a couple beers (this one, Sierra Nevada Celebration, and Lagunitas Sucks) that are bringing me around.

The Haybag: This is some damn fine hoppy lovin’. Oh, and FYI, I’m not a fan of waking up from a nap to find you doing creepy photo shoots with dolls.

Goose Island Sofie: You say Sofie, I say Sophie

Next up, Goose Island Sofie:

Sophie Sofie

Around beerbecue HQ, and at other households across the land with kids in the throes of gum vs. tooth warfare, the name Sofie isn’t usually associated with Goose Island’s Farmhouse-style ale. Here, thoughts turn to the much-hyped, $25 teething toy: Sophie the Giraffe. Yes, $25. Most likely, as babies, you and I were handed a spatula to chew on (or some other such household item) but only as a backup to having rum rubbed on our gums.

But apparently the little monsters love Sophie’s velvety texture, handily-chewable appendages, and squeezable squeakability. Unfortunately, as your child bludgeons your head with Sophie while you carry them to the car, the rhythmic squeaking sounds distinctly like well-deserved giraffe laughter for shelling out $25 for a glorified doggy chew toy.

We got our Sophie second-hand. Good thing. While 2.0 periodically enjoys the squeak as she pummels Sophie against the ground, her preferred comfort item is a 99 cent unopened tube of grape ChapStick. She carries it everywhere. She beats the hell out of Lego men with it for 15 minutes at a time. She chews on it. She even holds it while playing with other toys. Hell, she’s taking a nap with it as I type.

Seen here clutching the chapstick while beating the fridge with a basting brush.

Seen here clutching the chapstick while beating the fridge with a basting brush.

Sofie is a Belgian Style Farmhouse ale fermented with wild yeasts and aged in wine barrels with orange peel. It pours a slightly hazy straw with some orange highlights. It’s got a nice, whipped-looking, white head that eventually recedes to leave a ring and a Pangean supercontinent patch of head in the middle. It smells great…like a flower arrangement that’s one day away from starting to look and smell janky, along with some candied orange peel and a pineapple so ripe that the Haybag would ask me if it’s OK to still eat (of course it is, dammit). The taste follows the fruit in the nose, with the addition of some peppery spice, more orange, and a little vinous quality. The finish, while I wouldn’t call it sweet and flabby, is definitely not as dry and snappy as I’d like from a saison. By the end of the glass, it’s a little heavy-handed. But maybe that’s to be expected with lower carbonation and the wine barrel aging.

The Haybag: Great, now all I can taste is rotten flowers. Thanks. Why’d you give me a rotting flower beer?

Hardywood Park The Great Return IPA: Like a Sturgeon

Next up, Hardywood Park’s The Great Return – West Coast Style IPA:

hardywoodHardywood Park is a brewery out of Richmond and a recent arrival to the area. I’ve been looking forward to them getting up to Northern Virginia. So let’s get to it.

The Great Return is a reference to the return of the Atlantic Sturgeon to the James River. The Atlantic Sturgeon has actually been around since Utah had oceanfront property, but it’s numbers have dwindled recently. So, it’s resurgence is certainly a testament to James River conservation efforts. But I never understand why animals that survive millions of years of evolution aren’t more badass.

Except for you, crocodile. You still scary 'n whatnot.

Except for you, crocodile. You still scary ‘n whatnot.

The Atlantic Sturgeon can reach 15 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds, but it wouldn’t even rustle one jimmy of Jeremy Wade (of River Monster fame). They aren’t dangerous. With their beaky nose, slack jaw, no teeth, and beady eyes, if they attacked you it’d be like being gummed to death by Steve Buscemi…except maybe less creepy.

There is one exception. You have to go all the way to a country so stoic and hardened that it has the world’s lowest number of fucks given per capita: Russia. There, even the otherwise docile and bottom-feeding sturgeon is a calloused and hardened murder fish. The Kaluga Sturgeon can grow to 20 feet long and weigh up to 2200 pounds, it’s got teeth, it likes to hunt salmon, and it’s apparently fond of capsizing fishing boats and dragging fishermen to their death.

Caviar? Come and take it.

Caviar? Come and take it.

The Great Return pours a hazy deep amber with a nice, off-white head that loiters and leaves some lace. From its color, it appears the malt backbone is going to be a noisy passenger. But the first huff reveals substantial resin, pine, and grapefruit with some caramel in the backseat, content to quietly come along for the ride. The malt chimes in a little bit more in the taste, but it’s more like friendly banter than a bunch of annoying requests to change the radio station or to tell you hops is touching it or asking “Are we there yet?”. It has a nice clean bitterness in the finish, and despite the substantial malt character, it doesn’t get all sweet and thick up in here. It strikes a nice balance on the sweet-dry spectrum. And it’s actually a little thin…but not in a bad way. More like, imma go get me another damn can of this from the fridge kinda way.

Get you some. Apparently part of your purchase goes to James River conservation, which helps Atlantic Sturgeon…the non-murderous ones.

The Haybag: This is tasty. How about you be a dear and go fetch me another?

Avery Brewing DuganA and the Catcher in the Two-Row Barley

Next up, DuganA IIPA from Avery:


It appears that Duganā, or दुगना, is Hindi for double, which makes sense as this is a double IPA. While that’s fascinating, or not, the word DuganA reminds me more of a critical turning point in my young life…a loss of innocence, if you will. Sure, the theme has been mulled over in song and story – Don McLean’s American Pie, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, to name a few. But few have captured its essence as concisely as a fateful Spring day in 1987.

Reagan was President. The Cold War was still chilly, but perestroika and glasnost were taking hold. And professional wrestling was in its heyday. Sure, even then it was reasonable to assume that it wasn’t entirely real. Indeed, the best case scenario for an actual piledriver would be a minimum of 10 shattered vertebrae and your head shooting violently out your own butthole. But the outcomes most certainly weren’t staged, and the feuds were as real as it gets.

...and macho.

…and macho.

Then on May 26, 1987, New Jersey State Police pulled over one James Edward Duggan, Jr., better known as 2×4-wielding Hacksaw Jim Duggan of the WWF. No biggie. Apparently, cops saw Mr. Duggan throwing back a can of beer as he rolled down the turnpike. OK, it’s no secret that contact sport athletes self-medicate. Riding shotgun in the car, however, and higher than a Carolina pine: Hossein Kohsrow Ali Vaziri, better known as Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s sworn and bitter rival, The Iron Shiek. OMG! And they were apparently in the middle of such a fantastic bender that upon searching the vehicle, police found enough beer, pot, heroin, and coke to kill five Charlie Sheens.

...or half of a Keith Richards.

…or half of a Keith Richards.

The only way this could have been worse for the WWF would be if Nikolai Volkov was in the backseat doing body shots off the Killer Bees. OK, so maybe that’s not that far-fetched.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a Killer Bee...

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Killer Bee…

Let’s hope this beer doesn’t similarly let us down. It pours an almost clear golden-amber and sports a big, fluffly IPA head that leaves sticky lace. It smells like grapefruit rind and a slight caramel malt character. Then BOOM, the taste is all pine, resin, and dankness with substantial bitterness. With its Chinook, Centennial, and Columbus hops, it’s a veritable symphony of dankness. It’s all like Chopin’s Dancturnes, Bach’s Air on a Dank String, and Mozart’s Danquiem all wrapped into one. As it warms, there’s some heat from the 8.5% ABV, and the hops slow their roll a little and some caramel comes out. For such a dank beast, it’s pretty drinkable, though. This is a fave from Avery.

The Haybag: You’ve used enough words. I’ll just say this is my kind of drinkable.

Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest: Say it, don’t spray it

Next up, Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest:

hacker-pschorrIn one of my first beerbecue posts, I delved into the historical roots of Oktoberfest (more or less accurately). You can check out the early beerbecue hilarity here. This is relevant because Hacker-Pschorr is one of only 6 beer companies that provide beer for THE Oktoberfest in Munich, and it’s been that way for years…sort of.

Hacker-Pschorr didn’t actually merge until 1972. Even then, they continued to sell beer under separate labels for some time thereafter. But Hacker and Pschorr have been under various states of incestuous ownership from as far back as the late 1700s. And while Pschorr violates one of my life rules (Never trust anyone with a consonant to vowel ratio greater than 5:1), I thought it would be good to review a classic, proper Oktoberfest/Märzen.*

Of course, one of the hallmarks of an Oktoberfest beer is drinkability. That’s good, too, because at Oktoberfest they serve beer by the liter (that’s 33.8 US fluid ounces for you metricphobes). You don’t want your beer too heavy…I mean, you need room for such delectable Bavarian gastronomical treats as mackerel-on-a-stick and liver cheese. And the last thing you want to do while wearing knee-high socks and getting down to Oom-Pah music is to cry mercy because you can’t finish your beer.

Yes. THAT would make you look silly.

Yes. THAT would make you look silly.

So, blow the dust off your lederhosen, tell your Frau to fetch you another beer, and let’s get to it. It pours a crystal clear copper-brown, with a nice off-white head that leaves some lace. It smells like beer and faint caramel. It tastes like beer with some caramel, bread, and earthiness going on. No real hop character to speak of, other than just the right amount of bitterness to balance off the malt sweetness. It starts out drier than it finishes, but the finish strikes a nice balance between creamy and crisp. It’s a good Oktoberfest, and it makes me want to go jump in a pile of freshly raked leaves (my only true litmus test for an Oktoberfest beer).

The Haybag: What’s up with all these “drinkable” beers lately? Go fetch me an Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail, beer mench.

*I don’t think this is the Märzen that Hacker-Pschorr pours at Oktoberfest.

Shotgunning Stillwater Classique: Pee-Wee, Get My Gun

Next up, Stillwater Classique:


This Summer, I have been on a search for an everyday beer. While the Haybag might disagree, it’s not like you can always drink beers that are so big they leave their shirt on at the pool. And ticking something new every day can get tiresome.

My go-to shall be interesting, but not an attention whore. It shall be enjoyable, yet easy to shotgun. It shall not leave me wishing for something else. It shall be conducive to multiple beverages while tending to the smoker in the Summer or watching Notre Dame disappoint me in the Fall, but also just drinking one with lunch or dinner…or breakfast…or mid-morning snack.

I think I have found that beer in Classique. And I suspect that’s what Brian Strumke intended. Mr. Strumke took the building blocks of post-Prohibition American adjunct lager (including pilsner malt, corn, and rice) and tweaked it with Cluster, Northern Brewer, Saaz, and Cascade hops, and a farmhouse yeast strain to create one of the most drinkable, yet interesting, beers I’ve had in a long time.

It pours a slightly hazy straw color, with a persistent and foamy white head that leaves some lace. It smells like pilsner malt, light and lemony citrus, and the tell-tale phenolic and floral quality of Stillwater yeast (to me, it smells like distant cloves and fresh lilies). The taste follows the nose with the addition of some grassiness, some apples, and maybe very occasional bananas. And it finishes pretty dry and snappy.

All of this is very subtle, though. And while this is a beer that can be contemplated as such, it is also very conducive to pounding…or perhaps shotgunning. So, enough over-thinking this beer. Let’s break out the T-Model Ford album (Pee Wee Get My Gun) and get to it:

The Haybag: So this is how you spend your time while I’m at the grocery store and 2.0 is napping. Interesting.