Once again, I find myself reviewing canned craft beer offerings. This time, the outcome is much better than previously.
The first in line is Pizza Port’s Carlsbad Chronic. Pizza Port has a long, illustrious history in the craft beer world. It gave rise to legendary brewer Tomme Arthur (winner of more Great American Beer festival medals than any other individual), and to offshoots Lost Abbey and Port Brewing. Until now, all Pizza Port beers had been confined to its brewpubs.
There are only four different varieties of beer currently under the Pizza Port label, but that should increase soon, and more the better!
The Carlsbad Chronic can has label art that mocks its own name a bit, with something that looks like (but isn’t) a marijuana leaf. The joke here is that Pizza Port caters to the beach crowd of San Diego County, a demographic widely believed to be “Crispy Critters”. It also implies that the beer is habit forming, which is entirely correct.
Carlsbad Chronic is a beautiful clear red-brown ale that pours with a decent, but short-lived head. There is some thin lace in the glass as you drain it. It is all malt on the nose, a dark bread and caramel olfactory tease.
The flavor is like some of the most balanced efforts of traditional German brewers, or Samuel Adams best efforts. It is malty juuuuuust up to the point of being sweet, then the maltiness is knocked down by an earthy hop. The tastes are the same bready, caramel ones the aroma suggests. The finish is pleasant, but exceedingly short.
The point of this beer is that it is a “session ale”; it clocks in at only 4.9% ABV, it is perilously drinkable, and while the flavor is pleasant, it won’t overwhelm one’s taste buds or clash with any food. This is the kind of beer that Bud, Miller and Coors *wish* they could make. This is worth finding.
Second under the microscope is Uncommon Brewer’s Bacon Brown Ale.
I should explain myself a bit. My two culinary excesses are beer and bacon. I have often joked that I would eat my own hand if it tasted like bacon. So, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of bacon beers whenever I’ve heard about.
Unfortunately, the three I’ve tasted have all been horrific. Rogue, in particular, should be ashamed of their gimmick-driven Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale, which tastes like a beery version of Liquid Smoke. Yes. Soak that in for a second. Then realize that it’s not nearly as good as it sounds.
And yet, with my love for both bacon and beer, a decent bacon beer is my Holy Grail.
It SHOULD be possible to do. The smoky flavor profile of bacon is congruent with the smoked malts German brewers have been using for centuries. A good bacon beer is possible… in theory. I simply have never yet encountered one.
So, naturally, I approached Uncommon Brewer’s Bacon Brown Ale with some skepticism. Still, I am always hopeful.
The can art that Uncommon uses is quite entertaining. They go for a safari theme in keeping with their somewhat unusual approach to brewing, and their use of unusual ingredients. Palm fronds and a pith helmet feature prominently. And for this particular beer, the brewers state that they use not only bacon-cured pork in the brew kettle, but buckwheat as well.
This beer itself pours a very dark, opaque, murky mahogany hue. The head is large, lasts a moderately long time and leaves plenty of lacing in the glass.
The nose is rather peculiar, being redolent of root beer and/or sarsparilla, with hints of smoke, dark malts and pumpernickel.
The flavor is sublime, with a slightly-but-not-overwhelmingly smoky presence at first sip, followed deep rich malts (along with the indefinable but unmistakable effect of buckwheat upon any beer), and a dry, nutty taste. It finishes with more smoke, and a slight saltiness.
Make no mistake: Uncommon Brewer’s Bacon Brown Ale is an outstanding example of a brown ale. It sacrifices some drinkability at 6.8% ABV, but it is so delicious, you won’t care. Unfortunately, as a bacon beer it really doesn’t showcase that ingredient.
My search for the Holy Grail continues…
Tom Becham, seen to the right, after his successful reassignment surgery….
Tom Becham lives in Oxnard, CA and as reviewed many brews and breweries for The Professor: as far away as Hawaii. He has compared breweries all over California and written commentary as well. His writings have graced the pages of Professor Goodales for many years and after the trick we just played on him, above, we certainly don’t deserve such talent. The bunny ears simply add to the pleasure of having him here at PGA.