Beer of the Weekend #70: Red Trolley Ale

The beer this weekend is Red Trolley Ale brewed by the Karl Strauss Brewing Company of San Diego, California.


BotW is back after a one-week hiatus. My sister and her boyfriend were visiting and I was busy playing tour guide. It’s a role I like, especially when it involves free tickets to a Dodgers game.

My sister’s boyfriend was on the baseball team at Simpson College in Indianola. His pitching coach was Joe Blake, father of Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake. Casey himself got us tickets to last Friday’s game against the Phillies.

They were awesome seats. We were in the middle deck on the third base side of the field (of course). It was the closest I’ve ever been to the field at Dodger Stadium; I was banished to the upper deck at all the other games I’ve attended. Thanks, Mr. Blake.

Not only was it a good game (the Dodgers won on Andre Ethier’s two-RBI double in the bottom of the ninth; Casey Blake started the two-out rally) but I also drank my first beer at a ball game, making a lame attempt at a tasting. About the fifth inning I bought a 20-ounce Red Trolley Ale for $9.50.


Yeah — nine-fifty for one beer. And it was the medium size cup to boot. Get this: since it was considered a “premium” beer it was two bits more than the Budmilloors they had on tap. Nine bucks for a macrobrew? What a crock of shit. Needless to say it was the only beer I had. My love of beer is not going to subsidize Manny Ramirez’s ego.

Anyway, I borrowed a pen from a souvenir shop and wrote an impromptu review on a napkin.



My plan was to transcribe my notes or post pictures after the game, but didn’t feel like it when I got home. I needed a break; it was time for a free week. Plus, it didn’t feel right. I didn’t trust my tastebuds and, subsequently, my review. Sampling a brew in a pint glass at a bar is one thing, but in a plastic cup at a baseball stadium? Completely different. I couldn’t see the true color through the hazy plastic, couldn’t pick up the aroma through the thick atmosphere of Dodger Dogs and pizza, and couldn’t concentrate on the complexity with the game going on. I gave it a B+ because, well, there were no better beers to be had. But if I was going to review Red Trolley Ale I needed to do it right. So here I am.

Serving type: Six 12-ounce bottles.

Appearance: Poured a clear, beautiful deep copper with a tint of orange. A half finger of head developed on my first glass due to drinker’s error, but my second glass produced a finger and a half of tan foam that reduced to a spotted lacing and ring around the edge.

Smell: My first impression was of chocolate. Maybe my review at the stadium wasn’t so bad after all. It’s a little surprising from an amber. There is also a very deep and rich caramel aroma. Reminds me of a caramel filled piece of chocolate from a heart shaped box. As it warms a scent of plums and bread dough enters.

Taste: The chocolate is subdued and overtaken by hops, which are well-balanced with the malts. There is a plum quality that blends perfectly with the caramel notes. There is a slight citrus flavor of sour grapefruit, but it is very subtle.

Drinkability: This is a very drinkable brew, even at a baseball game in a plastic cup.

Fun facts about RTA (the acronym makes it sound like a real trolley line):

-Serving temperature: 45-50°F.

-Alcohol content: 5.8 percent ABV, according to the brewer; BA lists it as 5.6 percent ABV.

-IBU: 17. I’ve decided to include IBU when available.

-Food pairings: Sharp cheeses like Blue and Cheddar, and “Meat (Beef, Poultry, Fish).”

-Here are two more beer related scales the Karl Strauss website has explained well: SRM (standard reference method) and gravity. SRM is a measure of color intensity. “Beer color ranges from the almost colorless — (2-3) American light lagers — to the almost black — (30-40+) stouts and porters.” RTA’s SRM is 30. Gravity measures the amount of sugar “in degrees Plato.” Higher sugar content means more alcohol and better body. I don’t know what Plato means — or the degrees — but RTA’s gravity is 15ยบ Plato.

-According to the Karl Strauss website, RTA was the brewery’s first winter ale.

In the spirit of the season, we made like Santa in a fat suit and stuffed it full of caramel malts. So many folks got on board that we decided to brew it year round.

-RTA is the first brew I’ve had from Karl Strauss. KS has brewpubs and restaurants scattered throughout the Southland and San Diego, so I’ve always considered it a “mall-brewery” and dismissed their brew. It was stupid and pretentious of me. KS is only available in SoCal so I need to sample it while I’m here.

-Here’s a tip: if you’re in Santa Monica and plan on getting to Dodger Stadium in time for a night game on Friday, I recommend leaving around…oh…4 pm. We left the Promenade around 5 and I thought two hours would be more than enough time to get across town on surface streets; there was no way I’d take the 10 at rush hour. However, it may have been a good idea. Two hours after we left, a few minutes before first pitch, we were sitting in game traffic on Sunset. When we got into the stadium we’d missed the first half inning.


The Quiet Man’s grade: B.

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