So a couple weekends ago I hit the bottle shop on the other side of town, where I used to live, and treated myself to about a dozen bombers. Been sampling these now and then, whenever I wanted to take a break from my own homebrew (lately, bitter and stout).
Aside from some nice closeout specials on some obscure/local winter brews, here are some findings:
Good: Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale. We've heard IP wax about their Union Jack (another purchase I'm looking forward to trying soon), and the Double Barrel also represents them well. Nothing spectacular, but a straight-ahead, solid pale ale.
Good: Magic Hat #9. I was hoping to find some Magic Hat, and while I was little disappointed to only find the #9, I enjoyed getting reacquainted with a dear, old friend. We have Pyramid Brewery out here (which is actually owned by Magic Hat), whose apricot ale is a nice facsimile, but the #9 seems smoother, almost richer.
Bad: New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA. Like Redz' experiences with Sam Adams, I've been disappointed lately by the New Belgiums I've been trying. I love hop bombs, but like NB's Ranger IPA, I found the Rampant so hoppy that it tasted grassy. Grassy, and hot, in the way that a cheap, highly alcoholic beer tastes. Was not a fan, although my SO said she enjoyed it.
Excellent: Weihenstephaner Vitus. Beer fans know about this brewery's claim as the oldest continuously operating (since the 1050s). The Vitus is a weizenbock: at 7.7% ABV, think of it as an imperial hefeweizen. If you're a fan of the Bavarian style of hefeweizen, with its banana/bubble gum estery goodness, then this is your beer. The mack daddy of German hefeweizens. Just fantastic.
Also, I spent last weekend in Eugene, OR, home of the University of Oregon and some fine breweries. Managed to visit Oakshire Brewing and Falling Sky Brewery, and both of them are producing some terrific beer. If you guys are ever on the West Coast and see their beers on tap, give them a try. Highly recommended: Oakshire's Espresso Stout.