Bison Organic IPA, Bison Brewing Company, Berkeley CA:
Smooth and just a little bitey, very tasty. I like it. Very west-cost, smells like grapefruit. It's pleasant stuff, but it's definitely got the west-coast flavor going for it. This is a nice IPA, but at $10 a six-pack, it may be too toney for my blood.
Vixen, Fox Creek Vineyards, McLaren Vale, South Australia
It's dark-red champagne! Well, no, actually it's a blend of 75% sparkling shiraz, 13% cabernet sauvignon, and 12% cabernet franc. Comments include "it's not my favorite, but it's interesting", and "as a red, I almost wish it wasn't fizzy, so I could better taste the wine in it". I found it to be plenty tasty, and pretty affordable for a fizzy wine.
Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton DE
At ten bucks a bottle, this is not the stuff you're buying four cases of for your backyard barbequeue, but if you're looking to impress a beer snob who hasn't had this particular stuff before, this ought to do it. This is the opposite of 'tractor beer' - this is the first real sipping beer I've ever had. You want to drink this stuff slowly, and enjoy every sip.
Mike, one of my beer-snob friends, says "This is the best fucking beer I've ever had."
At this point, we realized the obvious mistake of having had the Dogfish Head so early on in the beer-tasting, figuring that it would prejudice the remainder of the results. Then, while discussing the effects of prejudice, I put forth my theory that the reason so many heavy, dark beers score so well at beer-tastings was that people tend to taste beer from lightest to heaviest, and by the time you get to the thick dark beers, you're completely plowed and you don't give a shit, so your judgement is comparatively suspect. Mike pointed out that having the dogfish head third obviously precludes any bias from being plowed.
Samuel Adams Black Lager
This is a Vienna-style dark lager, and I suspect that, were this not immediately following the 120-minute IPA, I'd like it quite a bit. Objectively, it's pretty tasty stuff, but put next to the dogfish, it just tastes feeble and sad.
Red Tail Lager, Mendocino Brewing Company, Saratoga Springs NY.
The bottle claims "California's first brewpub", and this is the first confusing thing to confront you in this bottle. The second is what exactly that note in the nose is. To me, it smells like meat. This is an interesting lager. "It smells vaguely rotten. Maybe rotten meat?". But, see, rereading this so far, it occurs to me that it sounds pretty negative; it's not. I like this stuff, I just can't really explain why.
Tosti Pino Grigio Vino Spumante Brut, Tosti SpA, Canelli, Italy
This is another not-really-Champagne fizzy wine, a little more towards the dry than the conventional USAnian cheap "sparkling wine" champagne-alike. A friend insists that it's not dry enough, but we can safely ignore them, as they're from europe. It reminds me of Freixenet, although it's a little smoother.
St. Peter's English Ale, St Peter's Brewery, Suffolk, UK
The bottle claims "Organically grown light malted barley and hops creat a refreshingly wholesome ale with a delicate character." It is not a delicate character. It is, in fact, wafting with the air of L'Eau de Dead Skunk. It has that Pilsner Urquell flavor, and if you like Pilsner Urquell, you'll like this. Me? I don't. Mike the Beer Snob says "if I'd have known what this tasted like, I'd have picked it before the Samuel Adams Black Lager as 'most likely to suck'. It's not bad, but it's not great, and to my mind, it's certainly not worth $5 for a pint and a half.
Delerium Nocturne, Huyghe Brewery, Melle/Ghent, Belgium
This is an authentic Belgian ale, made in Belgium, and it costs accordingly, but if you're the sort of person who likes Belgian ale, it's just not possible that you haven't heard of this stuff. It is, in this regard, pretty similar to the Dogfish 120-minute. It's pretty damn good stuff. Somebody spilled some, and it found it's way into the dog's bowl, and even the dog liked it. It lacks the peppermint note that the Delerium Tremens has, but it's still plenty tasty.
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Brut, Nicolas Feuillatte, Chauilly Epernay, France
This is more dry than the Tosti, meaning that the people who like really dry stuff like this more than they like the Tosti, but people who don't, won't. However, this is the point at which I decided that we were probably too drunk to continue reviewing anything.
Happy new year. Champagne and beer for everyone!