April 6, 2022

Spring Tasting Notes Courtesy of Tenaya Creek

We're going on an adventure! I honestly was only planning on just buying a couple of rounds and calling it a night.

I was even thinking that we (my wife and I) might get two Rexes and come home to cook dinner. It was around 5 or 5:30 that we arrived at the Creek, and not that we left exceptionally late, but we hung out for a couple of hours and ate tacos from the food truck that was parked there.

The Rex Kwon Do was enjoyable, but my wife suggested we do a flight because there were all kinds of astonishing names for different beers scrawled across the giant chalkboard lauding above the taps. So that's exactly what we did. I don't have her beers listed below with pictures and full descriptions... I did try them, but she picked three guest taps that I wasn't particularly keen on getting for myself. I opted to stick with all Tenaya Creek brewed beers. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with the beers that she selected, there's a reason they even have them on tap (one would suspect it is because they are good beers.) I view the experience a little differently though.

When I go to a tasting room I only care about the beer that they make at that specific brewery; in my mind I haven't gone to just another bar... I know that's not how a lot of people feel about the experience when they go to the tasting room of a brewery, it's just another bar with a fancy gimmick for a lot of people. I saw that type of mentality when we were at the Creek this past Saturday even. People weren't really treating their time there as an opportunity to get the most out of enjoying the unique beers on tap, they were using it as time to watch the sports game. That brings me to this point though--in terms of beer culture--I think we're back on a similar trajectory to the one we were on during the end of the nineteenth century. I don't think that my attitude is unique or different from everyone else, but rather, the way I feel about breweries is a growing undercurrent of general sentiment for a lot of the populace. Here in Vegas, just has they did in Colorado, they're becoming permanent fixtures of the local economy.

Going into a public house or a saloon back in the 1800s meant that you were drinking whatever could be sourced as locally as possible, that way the proprietors of the establishment didn't have to worry about spoilage. Based on the recipes from pre-prohibition that I've seen, most beers (with the exception of India pale ales) weren't hopped up for long voyages, they were just regular concoctions. Major differences being that they were definitely far more flavorful and complex than the beers we typically saw as Americans between the 1930s and the early 2000s.

California Common and Kentucky Common are the two pre-prohibition styles that really come to mind as good examples of the antithesis of mass produced adjunct lagers. They were regional styles that were cooked up in quantities that made sense to satiate the thirst of the patrons who were regular visitors of a certain place. Common beer was brewed much in the same way as everyone who has their own macaroni and cheese recipe... It's all mac and cheese, but it tastes a little bit different depending on where you eat it and whose cooking it. I think strong regional varieties are starting to develop again now that we aren't just comparing everything to Budweiser, but rather the public at large is starting to compare craft beers to other craft beers and really honing in on distinct favorite varieties and different ways of brewing the same styles that are becoming unique in and of their own right. A modern example of this is the "Hazy New England IPA."

Obviously, there are always going to be people who are perfectly content drinking Budweiser, Miller, Pabst, Coors, etc. Those people are not wrong; I personally really like PBR, and I don't mind a Miller High Life from time to time--I'll even seek out craft lagers that attempt to replicate the style of mass produced adjunct lagers (but that's a story for another day)--however, America's tastes are changing, and successful craft breweries are surviving long enough to weave their flavors and recognizable differences into the fabric of our personal experiences. With that type of nostalgia there is a sort of reverence for the artisan that comes along with it. Aside from ubiquity and general acceptance, price has been the other factor that has prevented regional beer varieties from taking root as the defacto beer of choice, but now I can often times find local beer at the local liquor chain here in Vegas selling for approximately twenty-five dollars per case. So there's really no excuse not to drink local beer (unless they taste awful), especially not when it can be cheaper than a case of Dilly Dilly Light.

But, let me take a moment to talk about tonight's soundtrack and song selection:

This is an album I don't think I've ever mentioned, but was recently mentioned to me by someone who didn't realize I knew the album... hopefully I haven't linked it in any prior posts. It's a split LP between Howling Giant and Sergeant Thunderhoof called "Turned to Stone Chapter 2: Masamune & Muramasa." I don't know if there's a Chapter 1 anywhere, I know there is supposedly a Part 3 to the Black Hole Space Wizard epic. Everything that Howling Giant does is a bit of a concept album. The lyrics always tell a story and they have a very specific musical aesthetic that they achieve with their textures, much in the same way as The Sword does. Hopefully you enjoy it.

Anyway, let's get into it!

First, I'll go through my wife's beers really quickly before digging deep into the ones that I picked out (I know I said that I didn't list them.) She got Mother Earth's "Cali Creamin'." It's a beer that tastes a bit like a creamsicle, except the sugar spikes at the end into a hit of alcohol burn. I've had it out of the can, this was the first time I had ever tried it on tap. Mother Earth is a California brewer that I don't know much about. I was pretty impressed, and my wife really enjoyed it. Her next beer was "Sugar Truck," and I don't really remember if that was the brewer or the beer, it was semi-smokey cocoa-ey stout if I remember correctly. The beer that she had after that wasn't even a beer, it was a cider called "Millions of Peaches" by Mojave. Again, I don't remember much about it, another guest tap. The last two that she had were "Walk Off Wheat" and "Midnight Luge," both of which are Tenaya Creek brews... Well, you'll notice that at the end I talk about the Midnight Luge, that was actually one of my picks, but they were out of Brew Dog's "Cosmic Crush" which was an apricot beer. I was kind of sad about the fact that they ran out of Brew Dog before we could taste it. All of my UK mates are pretty big on Brew Dog's stuff. I digress... The last beer that my wife had then was the "Wild Barrel" which you can see as the last beer on my flight in the picture above. If I'm not mistaken, that one was a Tenaya brew too, but definitely lighter and more fruity than I was craving.

Joe and the Devil 

9.0%

This is labeled as an IPA, but doesn't have any of the hallmarks of one. Or maybe it's just that the other flavors that don't normally show up in an IPA are so unexpected that my brain couldn't comprehend. The coffee bean in this is surprising. It's a beer with relative clarity and light body, the coffee flavor throws you off because that's usually a flavor that is reserved for far more muddier beers. But you get used to it. The aftertaste is fairly non-existent for such a heavy ABV. The bitterness is front facing though, and it prevents you from drinking it too quickly. It's almost is if they "dry-hopped" the beer with coffee beans. Which would be an interesting experiment if that's what they did, but I don't think it's a beer you can drink multiplies of, even being so high and so light in color... it might actually be hard to get drunk on it with how difficult it would be to drink it fast enough. Has a interesting flavor in the background that I can't put my tongue on, and is not seemingly related to the coffee beans. Some type of hard dry spice that is probably super common in most kitchens but doesn't get the due it deserves, and therefore is not a spice I remember the name for.

Singing Frog 

5.4% 

Japanese lager, through and through. This is an amazing Sapporo clone! Doesn't quite have the balance of Kirin Ichiban though (could use just a slightly sweeter malt finish in my opinion.) HIGHLY drinkable. I could easily sing a 10-song set at karaoke while drinking this beer. That little point four of a percent on the ABV sneaks up on you too. Normally I know exactly what to expect with a five-O beer or one that maybe comes in at four-point-eight. A five-point-four on the other hand is just enough that it might only take two or three pints as opposed to four or five before you start to feel it. You also might not realize how fast you're drinking it by how easily it goes down.

Hanabi

3.8%

A sour palate cleanser. Light and fruity. Hardly alcoholic, but it still has some kick to it… enough to justify calling it a beer. Just above that three-two nonsense in Minnesota, with the extra point five of a percent you can conceivably get drunk, whereas, it's not possible to get drunk on three-two beer because you can't drink it fast enough (I should know because I've tried.) The name almost sounds Japanese, which is a bit odd for a Berliner Weisse. It's a good sour beer if you're in the mood for one. I picked up on subtle peach flavors mixed with a bit of grapefruit.

Monsoon 

8.5% 

"Fresh hop, double IPA."

I've had my back and forth with strong IPAs. Sometimes I really enjoy them, other times I feel like they're a bit too much. The prevalence and ubiquity of strong IPAs means that I'll often order an IPA over something else if I don't know what else to drink, or they only have unremarkable beers on tap. In a way, IPAs are almost synonymous with "craft beer" for a lot of people, which means that it's a big seller because people trying to get their friends and loved ones into craft beer need something that really shows them that there is a big difference and IPAs are that shock to a lot of people. 

This particular IPA might be the most desert-tasting beer that I've ever had... I could go into a really long side story about my first time drinking a local Tempranillo (wine, a Spanish variety grape that does well in dryer climates), but I'll save it. That being said, if you've heard me tell that story before, then Monsoon is the beer version of that wine for me, not that they taste or smell anything a like, just t hat they both embodied the presence of the earth.

So, the Monsoon, it's heavy in alcohol, has a skunky-skanky smell, and a taste to match. It's like a Stoomer generator party in the middle of the night on a July weekday. I've had this from the can but never from the tap… at least not that I remember. I'll definitely consider getting it the next time they do have it fresh. It may have even been just this batch... I don't know if they've improved on the recipe or if they're messing with it behind the scenes, but this is the first time I haven't tasted the soapiness that can occur with some of the higher alcohol IPAs. Instead, just a nice dry hop bitter flavor punch that smells like a freshly cut cannabis garden. Definitely enjoy this way more this time than I have in the past. I'll definitely be picking it up soon or again next year.

Midnight Luge

7.3% 

This is a fucking phenomenal beer, my favorite of the evening… and it isn't even brewed in it's final form, it's an amalgamation of Tenaya's "Bonanza Brown" and their "God of Thunder" Baltic Porter, then blended with chai and coca nibs. On paper it's not necessarily something that I would pick to drink for a typical evening. Not even necessarily the beer I would have picked for the end of the night, but it really was a nice way to end the tasting. It just happened to be the last beer in the line-up, and therefore it was the last beer that I drank.

There's something about the fact that there's no aftertaste that makes this beer damn near alchemical magic. By every right, it should have a strong aftertaste, and some of the bitter should be clinging to the back of your tongue in a dark brown residue. But, it leaves you with nothing, something that I attribute to the brown ale part of its formula. Brown ales tend to be very "wet" (for lack of a better descriptor) and they are good thirst quenchers, which usually results in them going down easy. I would say that some people would even describe New Castle as a bit watery... Tenaya's Bonanza Brown is very much a New Castle clone, but offers a boat load more flavor. Whoever decided to combined it with the "God of Thunder" was a madman (or madwoman). Tenaya's GoT is probably their heaviest and thickest beer, despite that, being thinned out by the Bonanza Brown isn't detrimental to the integrity of that beer in anyway.

Interestingly enough, both my wife and I both picked our last beers as the full pints that we ended up drinking.

Tacos were enjoyed. We made sure to pace ourselves and not drink too much. Overall it was a good evening. I might have to trek on over to Scenic Brewing and do the same if they happen to have any seasonals on tap.

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