Tag Archives: USA

169. North Coast Brewing Old No. 38 Stout

It’s about time we drank this one. It has been sat in The Official Threehundredbeers Kitchen Cupboard for longer than I can actually remember. The “best before” date appears to be some time in 2015, and it was purchased from the long-closed and much missed BottleDog shop on Gray’s Inn Road.

North Coast Brewing Old No. 38 Stout

I opened this one over the sink with some trepidation: with a beer this old—especially one at only 5.4% ABV—you never know what kind of chemical reactions may have happened in the bottle in the meantime. Thankfully there’s no gushing to contend with, merely a gentle “pssssst” on opening.

What does burst out of the bottle is a huge aroma of chocolate, raisins and booze. Old No. 38 is certainly one of the finest-smelling beers I’ve come across in some time. This should be interesting.

North Coast Brewing Old No. 38 Stout

Hailing from Fort Bragg, California, North Coast Brewing Old No. 38 Stout comes to us from the same brewery that brought us that rather nice Old Rasputin Imperial Stout a while ago. It’s named after a steam engine that used to work its way up and down the Fort Bragg to Willits route, about which I know nothing whatsoever, but which I assume to be fairly picturesque.

Pouring a deep, dark, almost opaque brown colour with a smooth tan head, Old No. 38 sticks to the glass like a much stronger stout should. Perhaps on pouring the beer looks a little thin-bodied, but once you get it into your mouth, that couldn’t be further from the case.

Instead, Old No. 38 is rich, smoky, roasty and very smooth indeed. There’s a prominent dark chocolate bitterness that never becomes overwhelming, it’s full of juicy dried fruits, and it’s ridiculously easy-drinking for a stout. This is gorgeous stuff, to be frank.

This is a truly excellent beer. It’s hard to know what role the ageing played in its development, but what is certain is that if I ever find another bottle, it won’t hang around nearly as long.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: North Coast Brewing, Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.4% ABV
Found at: BottleDog, Gray’s Inn Road, London (now closed)
Serving: 355ml bottle

152. Alaskan Amber

I was very pleased to get my hands on this one. You don’t see a great deal of Alaskan Amber outside of its home country, and it’s pretty much impossible to find at all here in the UK.

So when Threehundredbeers reader (apparently there are some) and Untappd buddy Garth mentioned he was off to Alaska and would be happy to bring a couple home, I jumped at the chance. We soon met up in Stormbird for a few jars and to trade a couple of beers. Garth took home a bottle of my dodgy home brew for his troubles, so I think I got the better end of the deal.

Alaskan Amber

I can’t compete with Garth’s photos from the summit of Mount Juneau, where I imagine this beer tasted particularly fine, though it tastes pretty good in my kitchen in South London, to be fair.

Alaskan Amber is an Alt-style beer. Alt is a German style originating from the Düsseldorf area, and apparently introduced to Alaska by German prospectors during the Gold Rush. I remember enjoying the Diebels Alt and the Duckstein Original very much, so the chance to try an Alaskan take on the style is welcome.

It’s certainly amber, pouring a rich, dark caramel colour with a smooth tan head. There’s a bready, malty nose to it, with very little in the way of hop aromas beyond a floral hint of Saaz reminiscent of a good Pilsner.

That subtle hopping carries through to the flavour too. This is what beer bloggers tend to describe as a “malt-forward” beer: rich and full bodied with only subtle, fragrant hop notes. I don’t imagine it’s terribly easy to grow hops quite so close to the Arctic Circle, so that makes a lot of sense. In fact I’m reminded of those malty, sweet ales from Scotland, a part of the world with—if memories of my distant student years are reliable—a similar climate.

It’s thoroughly drinkable stuff, too. I’m convinced this is a style of beer which would sell well in the UK, so it’s a shame that you rarely see it. There’s one more Alaskan beer to track down, but fortunately I have a bottle of that one patiently maturing in the spare room.

Anyway, huge thanks to Garth for finding this one, and for making me thoroughly jealous of his trip to Alaska.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Alaskan Brewing Company, Juneau, Alaska, USA
Style: Alt and Amber Beers
Strength: 5.3% ABV
Found at: Alaska Cache Liquor, Franklin Street, Juneau, Alaska
Serving: 12 fl oz can

117. North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin

BrewDog are one of those companies that can greatly divide opinion within the beer world, to say the least.

Their histrionic, Kevin-the-Teenager marketing schtick may not be to everyone’s tastes, but they do brew some fine beers. And now, via their bars and wonderful new shop, BottleDog in King’s Cross, [Edit: sadly now closed] they’re importing and making available some exceptional and rare beers from far-flung corners of the world. Which brings us neatly to this guy.

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin is a fairly intimidating 9% ABV Imperial Stout, and hails from Fort Bragg, California. You’ll very occasionally find it in bottles, but will almost certainly never have seen it on tap in the UK. Unless, that is, you made it along to the newest BrewDog bar in Clapham Junction within the first few days after it opened.

Which, needless to say, Threehundredbeers did.

The beer board at BrewDog Clapham Junction

It’s a stout alright, and a mighty one at that. Old Rasputin is utterly black, coating the inside of BrewDog’s well-chosen glassware thickly with its tan froth and boozy alcohol “legs” as you swirl it around.

Speaking of which, the 1/3 pint measures are a nice touch, since this is quite a strong beer, and there are many other strong beers to be sampled here too. For the curious, that other third in the background is the Stone Brewing Old Guardian, a gigantic Barleywine that’s similarly rare to find on tap, if at all.

The aroma is surprisingly fruity, though fruit as in dates, figs, that sort of thing. The body perhaps isn’t the fullest I’ve ever come across in an Imperial Stout, though it’s still pretty robust.

First impressions are dominated by a huge bitterness, so much so that in my scribbled notes I wrote the word “bitter” three times, just in case I somehow forgot. There’s a big, warming alcohol hit up front too.

All the requisite Imperial Stout boxes are ticked: there are licorice, dark chocolate, leather and coffee flavours in spades. That bitterness won’t lie down though, not that you’d want it to.

This is a great beer, and it’s a real treat to find it on tap. I’d have had another, but that Old Guardian won’t drink itself. Either way, a browse through the BrewDog beer menu suggests this won’t be our last visit. Any excuse to return to a very pleasant bar that’s a wonderful addition to the South London beer circuit.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: North Coast Brewing, Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 9.0% ABV
Found at: BrewDog Clapham Junction, Battersea Rise, London SW11
Serving: Keg, 1/3 pint

109. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

It’s been quite some time since we last covered a Barleywine, which seems remiss, as it’s fast becoming one of your correspondent’s favourite styles.

Barleywine originates in the country houses of England, where it was originally brewed as a potential alternative to non-native wines as an accompaniment for food. The style fell from favour fairly promptly, and was all but forgotten until Fritz Maytag of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewery introduced Old Foghorn.

These days Barleywines are all the rage among the better US-based brewers. They all seem to make at least one, and one of the most famous is Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. It’s not terribly easy to find, and only produced in once-yearly vintages, but Putney’s rather wonderful Beer Boutique came up with the goods recently.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot looks and smells every inch the classic Barleywine. It’s a rich, deep caramel and Greek honey colour, with a good dose of tan foam on the top. There’s caramel in the aroma too, along with sinister black treacle and a hefty dose of peppery hops.

As Barleywines go, the Bigfoot is remarkably bitter. Some examples of the style can be excessively, cloyingly sweet, but that certainly isn’t the case here. There is a dense, malty underlying sweetness all the same, but it’s more than balanced out by the bitterness.

There are plenty of big, fruity flavours, along with some medicinal, cough syrup notes and huge pine resins. It’s a giant of a beer in many ways, and all that flavour is backed up with a big, warming 9.6% alcohol hit.

This bottle was from the 2014 vintage, and so very fresh indeed, but Bigfoot is considered to be one of the best beers around for ageing. I’ll be putting at least one or two away then, and hopefully tracking down some from other vintages past and future too.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA
Style: Old Ales, Barley Wines and Vintage Ales
Strength: 9.6% ABV
Found at: The Beer Boutique, Upper Richmond Road, London SW15
Serving: 355ml bottle

104. Rogue Shakespeare Stout

The short stretch of London alongside and under the railway tracks into London Bridge station is home to a growing number of excellent small, new breweries, including The Kernel, Partizan and Brew by Numbers.

On Saturdays these breweries, along with many of the other small businesses in and around the railway arches, such as bakers, cheesemongers and importers of various delicious foodstuffs, open their doors to the public, who are invariably eager to sample the wares on offer.

All in all, the so-called “Bermondsey Beer Mile” makes for a particularly pleasant Saturday stroll for the beer lover and so this weekend, the help of Official Threehundredbeers Drinking Buddy Ben was enlisted, and we were on the hunt for beer number 104.

The newest beery addition to the Bermondsey area comes to us via Canterbury’s The Bottle Shop, whose growing wholesale operations have seen them establish a depot in a Druid Street arch. Again, on a Saturday they open up to the public, who can take a seat and choose from the 350 or so beers in their catalogue.

One of which—I’m very pleased to report—is Rogue Shakespeare Stout.

Rogue Shakespeare Stout

Poured from its double sized sharing bottle, the Shakespeare Stout is as black as black can be. It’s entirely opaque, with a good dose of coffee-coloured foam that dissipates quite quickly.

It’s a complex beer. At first taste it’s a big, honest, flavoursome stout but there are notes of a roasty, caramel sweetness, vanilla and cardamom spice.

As with the Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, the use of oats makes for a really smooth beer. There’s no harshness at all, but there is a huge long bitter finish that lingers and lingers.

The bitterness is offset by that slight caramel sweetness, making for a beautifully balanced beer. This is really just a great example of a no-nonsense, high quality stout, and one I’d happily drink again. Which is fortunate, as I took advantage of The Bottle Shop’s reasonable pricing and brought another bottle home.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Rogue Ales, Newport, Oregon
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 6.0% ABV
Found at: The Bottle Shop, Druid Street, London SE1
Serving: 650ml bottle

103. Shipyard Fuggles IPA

It’s funny how things work out. One morning I’d been poring over The Official 300 Beers Todo List, as is my wont, and fretting over how on earth to find Shipyard Fuggles IPA, a beer I’d never seen from an American brewery I’d never heard of.

A couple of hours later I walked into my local Oddbins only to find a freshly delivered case being loaded onto the shelves and into the fridge. And here it is.

Shipyard Fuggles IPA

This could be interesting, because Shipyard Fuggles IPA is an American IPA from Portland, Maine, but as the name suggests, it’s brewed exclusively with Fuggles, a quintessentially English hop that you’d more usually find in a pint of bitter.

The label proudly pronounces this to be “Craft Beer”, which is typically an unambiguous sign that it’s nothing of the sort, and is more likely to originate from a mediocre brewery vainly trying to buzzword their way into a seat on the bandwagon. But maybe this is an exception.

Shipyard Fuggles IPA

Shipyard Fuggles IPA is a warm copper colour with almost no head at all. There’s barely a wisp of froth on there, despite a reasonably hard pour.

The only way I can describe the taste is that it’s what a not-particularly-knowledgeable American lager drinker probably thinks an English beer tastes like, but then sweetened and with the ABV bumped up to make it more acceptable to that same American guy.

It doesn’t really work. It’s sweet, soapy and slightly medicinal with pronounced notes of fungus, plaster of Paris and disappointment. If you were to imagine a poorly-kept pint of something like Doom Bar that’s been left out overnight, and then industrially condensed to accentuate the unpleasantness within, you’d be quite close.

I’m going to be charitable here and assume that this is a beer which does not travel well. At all. Maybe it’s an absolute delight when sampled in Portland. I suspect I’ll never know, but I do rather wish I’d only bought
the one bottle.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Shipyard Brewing Company, Portland, ME
Style: India Pale Ales
Strength: 5.8% ABV
Found at: Oddbins, Rosendale Road, London SE21
Serving: 355ml bottle

65. Ommegang Abbey Ale

Since there apparently are not enough Belgian beers in the world, we now turn to an American brewery doing their best to recreate famous Trappist and other Belgian ales in a postmodern mockup monastery in Cooperstown, New York.

Brewery Ommegang was founded in 1997 by Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield, two Americans with a genuine passion for quality beer, and everything else Belgian, but primarily with a keen eye for business.

With Don and Wendy having sold their share of the company in 2003, Ommegang are now owned by the European brewing giant Duvel Moortgat.

Despite the pretensions to authenticity and Belgianness, since Ommegang’s website contact page lists an extensive roll call of Public Relations, Marketing and Accounts managers, and almost nobody remotely involved with the brewing process, it’s probably fair to assume we are not dealing with an artisanal craft brewery here.


In terms of colour, Ommegang Abbey Ale is a lovely deep ruby, turning almost golden syrup-like in the right light. There isn’t much in the way of aroma beyond a few peppery Belgian-style esters, but it certainly isn’t lacking in flavour.

From the first taste, this is an intensely flavoursome beer. It’s rich, dark and treacly, and packs in dried fruit, christmas cake and rum notes. It’s every inch the Belgian Dubbel, but with every flavour turned up to 11.

The hefty alcohol content is hidden behind a slightly cloying sweetness, and unfortunately there’s a somewhat watery finish that lets the whole ensemble down a little.

I suspect some people would absolutely love this beer, and it genuinely has enough to say for itself to justify some enthusiasm, but to me it just isn’t the finished article. It’s a good beer, but I suspect there won’t be many Trappist monks losing sleep over Ommegang’s run on their territory tonight.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY
Style: Abbey Beers
Strength: 8.2% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Serving: 355ml Bottle

51. Goose Island Honker’s Ale

It’s always interesting to experience American attempts to replicate classic British beer styles. This time we’ll be trying Chicago-based Goose Island Brewery’s interpretation of a Best Bitter.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by Goose Island’s IPA when I reviewed it a few weeks ago, finding it far too sweet and cloying. Let’s see how their endearingly-named Honker’s Ale compares.


Goose Island Honker’s Ale pours a lovely warm bronze colour with a generous off-white head, and there’s an enticingly fragrant malty aroma.

The beer is very full-bodied, and packed full of flavour: there are big biscuity malts, tart fruit and an intriguing marzipan note.

Unfortunately, that sweetness that plagued the IPA is back. Although Honker’s Ale isn’t quite as tooth-janglingly sugary as the IPA, it’s still too sweet. Bitter is named that way for a reason, and while there is a bitter finish here, it’s well hidden under a coating of sugar.

This is a genuinely good beer that’s let down by what seems to be a pandering to the American palate. That’s a real shame, because I’m sure that the kind of drinkers that would buy Goose Island’s beers have far more sophisticated tastes than mainstream beer swillers.

Maybe I’m wrong—Goose Island are currently owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the giant international corporation responsible for Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona, after all—but I don’t think so.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL
Style: Best Bitters
Strength: 4.3% ABV
Found at: Bossman Wines, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Serving: 355ml Bottle

44. Brooklyn Brown Ale

This is the third and final beer we’ll meet from the Brooklyn Brewery, having already tried the Vienna-style Lager and the magnificent Black Chocolate Stout. They were both cracking beers, so I have high hopes for this one.

Brooklyn Brown Ale was originally brewed as a seasonal beer, but proved so popular that it found its way into Brooklyn’s core range. It has subsequently been tweaked heavily over the years by Brooklyn’s famous Brewmaster Garrett Oliver.


There’s that smart Milton Glaser-designed Brooklyn branding again, though the label replaces the Brooklyn Lager’s green detailing with an appropriate-seeming reddish brown colour scheme.

The ale is certainly brown, pouring a deep chestnut colour with a small tan head. It’s a smooth, drinkable beer with a slightly lighter body than I expected. It’s full of deep roasted flavours and nutty, bonfire toffee sweetness.

There’s a slight bitter finish, though the hop bitterness isn’t especially pronounced, despite a generous amount of hops being used in the brewing process.

All in all, with their Brown Ale, Brooklyn have created a successful modern American twist on a classic British style of beer, ramping up the malts and strength to create a deeper, more complex brew that remains pleasantly refreshing.

I can’t help thinking this would be a great beer to cook with, perhaps in a steak and ale pie or game casserole, but I’ll stick with drinking it for now.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
Style: Brown and Mild Ales
Strength: 5.6% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Serving: 355ml Bottle

41. Boston Samuel Adams Lager

It’s Friday evening, the weekend has begun, and I think it might be time to reach into the fridge and randomly select a beer from the growing 300 Beers queue.

Sure enough, out comes this famous American lager, and having had a run of excellent American beers recently, including two from the Brooklyn Brewery and three from San Francisco’s Anchor, trying our first offering from the Boston Brewing Company seems like an appropriate start to the weekend.


Having already met the very tasty Brooklyn Lager, I’m not at all surprised when Sam Adams pours a lovely, rich amber colour. It looks like we may have another Vienna-style lager on our hands, though The Book points out that this is more in the Bavarian March style. The subtleties are left as an exercise for the reader.

There’s a small white head which doesn’t stick around for long, and a promisingly malty aroma, balanced out with some gentle hops.

Sam Adams is a really full-bodied, grown-up beer with a heavy, malty backbone and an explosion of caramel and hops in the mouth, followed by a remarkably long, pleasing bitter finish.

There’s so much flavour here, and this is the absolute antithesis of the usual emaciated, gassy pale lagers that we’re all too familiar with in this country. This is a really top notch beer, and at a sane 4.8%, it’s sessionable enough too.

Just when I’m about to praise the Americans for brewing another winner, I notice an anomaly, in that this is a 330ml bottle rather than the traditional US 12 fluid ouncer. And there it is on the back label: brewed by Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent. This one hasn’t come far at all!

Perhaps one day I’ll be able to check out an original US-brewed Sam Adams for comparison, but for now, this will have to do.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent, England
Style: Vienna Red, Märzen and Oktoberfest Beers
ABV: 4.8%
Found at: Sainsbury’s, Westow Street, London SE19
Dispense: 330ml Bottle