Sunday, June 27, 2010

TBG Drinks: Karl Strauss 21st Anniversary Ale

Brewed By: Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Brewed In: San Diego, California
Type: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 10.2%

What They Say: "Now that we are 21, our palate has matured like a fine wine. So we created something unique with old vine Zinfandel grape juice added during fermentation to give this brew a subtle vinous quality. Belgian yeast imparts hints of dried fruit in the nose, while a big dose of Vienna and Caramel malts yields a dry warming finish. Aged a month on American oak to take the edge off, this is one to share with friends."

Website: (Lifted from my February 2010 review of Karl Strauss' Fullsuit) At this risk of running afoul of any web-designing beer elitists out there, I freaking love the Karl Strauss site. Yes, the home page is a little blocky, but it's clean and easy to read. The "Brews" page not only shows the full assortment of beers by their names/types, but it also offers up a visual of what's inside the bottle. I know it's not the same as seeing a pour in front of you, but it's still a nice touch. The "Eats" tab takes you to maps and menus of their six Southern California restaurants (get the beer-brined pork chops and thank me later). And, the obligatory "Who We Are" and "Beer Gear" areas aren't at all intrusive.

Why I Picked It: This one's been out for a few months, but despite my unabashed brand loyalty towards Karl Strauss, I walked right past these 22 oz. bottles during my last few visits to BevMo. You'd think I would've learned from my wife and the "Jamba Juice Rule". Y'see, Mrs. Bootleg ONLY likes the "Strawberries Wild" smoothie from Jamba. But, this doesn't stop her from wanting to try something new every time she goes there. She'll order the "Caribbean Passion" or "Razzmatazz", takes two tiny sips and then proclaims "I should've stuck with my strawberry". Before we got married, I'd give her MY strawberry smoothie and choke down her vile concoction. Now? If she's with me, Mrs. Bootleg MUST "stick with her strawberry". I've struck down marital smoothie swaps. And, no more ignoring new brews from Karl Strauss.


Presentation (5): Karl Strauss redesigned the labels of their year-round selections (Amber Lager, Red Trolley Ale) several years ago, so it's a little surprising to see such an absence of creativity put into the design of an anniversary release. While the "21st Anniversary" text is in the largest font and, indeed, grabs the eye, there's nothing else on the bottle that conveys the importance of the occasion or the cleverness of the creation. 2

Originality (5): Last weekend, in a discussion about this beer, m'man Smitty mentioned another beer brewed with zinfandel grape juice that he'd previously sampled. I'll defer to his experience, because I'd never seen a beer/zinfandel blend until this one. Good ol' Google, though, sides with my sheltered life, as every relevant search for "beer" "zinfandel" and "grape" came up "Karl Strauss". 5

Body (10): Among the many, MANY things I don't do well, my embarrassing attempts to complete the "perfect pour" rank close to the top. But, this time, with Mrs. Bootleg and my six-year-old son as witnesses, I nailed it. A gorgeous reddish-gold color with a two-finger head, this is one of the most aesthetically-pleasing ales I've ever seen. The strong carbonation shoots to the top of the glass and hastens the release of sweet, creamy and oaken aromas. 9

Taste (10): This isn't "grape ale" -- or any
related typo -- as much as it's ale with a light zinfandel finish. I love the way the flavors keep changing here. It starts out with mild caramel and a little bit smoky. When the zin kicks in, there's a sweetness-n-spice taste that hits the tongue, but doesn't linger too long. Very flavorful and surprisingly complex, yet not at all overpowering. 9

Efficiency (10): Mrs. Bootleg sampled this beer and really liked it. She's immediately turned off at even the slightest hint of hoppiness, so the fact that she came back for more indicates a level of smoothness than even the littlest, most nagging black woman can handle. The sweet finish and level of carbonation belie the ABV and putting away more than one of these 22 oz. bombers in a single sitting is far from unreasonable. 9

Versatility (10): If you're looking for a "novelty beer" to serve to your Bud Light/Miller Lite/Coors Light crew, Karl Strauss 21st Anniversary would be a great place to start. It's not too dark, not too strong and not at all intimidating. Both a solid social beer and an unwind-on-your-own time brew. 8

Grade: 42 (out of 50) -- Great Beer

The above format has been lifted with permission from That Beer Snob Guy

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