Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale

This was my "treat beer" while cooking dinner for New Years Eve. It was a really nice pale ale with good "fresh" or "wet" hopped characteristics. Nice and grassy and aromatic. Amber to copper in color. A thick persistent head persisted for the entire bottle and had to be rinsed out later. It was a well balanced beer and could be consumed as a session beer. I wasn't overwhelmed, but I wasn't disappointed either. It just left me wanting more.

Happy New Years hosers!

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Holland Dragon's Milk

Sometimes it can be difficult to review a beer, especially one that receives a good amount of hype. The first thing that goes through my mind is how can I, who have only been brewing and drinking craft beer regularly for only the last 2.5 years even begin to have the credentials to critique the product of someone who has been producing a commercial product or homebrew for years. Obviously they know what they are doing and someone likes what they are brewing, because they are marketing it. I'm relatively limited in my knowledge of brewing and still have a long way to go before I'll consider myself any sort of expert. Regardless of my lack of experience, I try to judge every beer fairly and if for some reason I totally despise it I typically won't review it. If I think it has potential I'll usually do a write-up.

The first issue I have with Dragon's Milk is that I can't find any real definitive answer on what style it is supposed to be. While I'm not a style nazi by any means, I still haven't gotten into the subjective part of reviewing yet (but I'm trying) and I like to base my impressions on some sort of standard. Even if a beer doesn't fit a style, sometimes the name will clear it up as in Black IPA. In that case I would expect a dark, hoppy beer. The closest thing I could find was references to it being an American or English Strong Ale on BA and ratebeer.

I can tell you that Dragon's Milk pours looking like a stout/imperial stout. Dark brown with a tan, quickly dissipating head with minimal lacing. The aroma is strong with bourbon with chocolate, caramel, vanilla, and floral hops having a battle with eachother in the background. The bourbon dissipates some and the battling scents acheive parity with the whiskey. Based on what my nose is telling me, I am expecting something strong and stouty and the first few sips seem to hold true as I drink a chocolate vanilla espresso infused with Tennessee whiskey. A prounced hop bitterness numbs the rear roof of the mouth.

The issue I have is that as the beer warms more, the bourbon masks out everything. It goes from being a semi-enjoyable experience to a night of doing shots. I'm not a big whiskey drinker, and after a shot or so I am done, unless it is mixed. This beer lacks a strong malt backbone to stand up to the whiskey, which is probably why most bourbon beers are strong stouts or porters. It lacks any sort of balance whatsoever and quickly becomes a real dissapointment. I poured the second half of the bottle out and it's a very rare occasion when I pour a beer out.

A year or two in the bottle might make this beer a bit more enjoyable, but therein lies another issue I have with certain beers. It's one thing if it gets better with age, but if it needs to age before it can be drank, I'd like to know beforehand. In my opinion though, this beer with age will still be a watered down version of whiskey and not much else.

This beer didn't get rave reviews on BA either, but even so it has a B overall even with some of those reviews saying that it wasn't good. If I were going to assign it a letter score, I'd give it somewhere between a D and a low C.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Schell's stout

I love my bitter beers. In fact the more bitter a beer is, the better. But it comes with a risk. A really bitter beer can leave a bitter aftertaste. And nobody wants that.

Enter Schell's Stout. It's my first foray into the world of the August Schell Brewing Company, but it won't be my last. This is one of the best stouts I've had in a long time.

First of all, I have to talk about its color. I love beers that I can't see through. And this beer was as dark as anything I've had in a while. The head was a beautiful dark tan and looked great as it was poured.

Then there's the taste. This is a bitter one, folks. I could detect a bit of coffee, both in the smell and in the taste. There was also a hint of very dark (bordering on bittersweet) chocolate. The aftertaste was like a very dark roast coffee; it actually reminded me of my favorite Ethiopian blend. But it wasn't bitter. It was actually slightly sweet and very pleasant - and it lasted a while.

Texture-wise, this is a very smooth beer. It actually warmed me up a bit after drinking it. Not like an alcohol burn, but more like that feeling you get after taking a sip of rich hot chocolate.

Don't try this beer straight out of your fridge. I tried a sip when it was still ice cold and it didn't taste right. I let it sit in the glass for a minute or so and it was perfect.

Long story short - this is a very good winter beer. And the price can't be beat. My local liquor store stocked it at just about $8 for a six-pack. Perfect if you have a crowd of discerning beer drinkers coming over, but you don't want to break the bank.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Leading a Horse to Water

This Christmas Eve may mark a milestone in my evolution as a craft beer lover: the night I stopped bringing good beer to family gatherings.

When you attend the Great American Beer Festival, inevitably, one of the longest lines is at the booth for New Glarus Brewing Company of Wisconsin. Their fruit beers are especially sought after, because they are not sold outside their native state lines. Their Raspberry Tart and Wisconsin Belgian Red beers are raspberry and cherry pies in a bottle, essentially.
The Raspberry Tart is the more tangy of the two. While its tart and sweet fruit flavors smack your taste buds up front, the beer backbone provides a malty hint of the crust that surrounds the liquid pie. The Belgian Red is sweeter, with its cherry essence accentuated by notes of spice.
A good friend of ours and his wife had to travel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, a few months ago. Nothing serious, thank goodness. When I heard they were going, I asked casually if they were passing through any part of Wisconsin on the way. Maybe they could drop by a liquor store and pick up a couple of things.
To make a long story short, my request resulted in my friend and his wife browsing liquor stores over the state line from the clinic while he dangled a tube from his nose. After finding four liquor stores and getting guidance from me on the cell phone, they purchased six packs of Fat Squirrel and Spotted Cow along with four each of the raspberry and cherry beers.
Needless to say, I was very happy and grateful.
Cut to the present time, when my friend is back from the clinic and healthy. Since they were so nice to go to the effort of bringing these wonderful beers, I thought it was only right that I share them at holiday time. In attendance at a Christmas Eve gathering at my friends' house were their family along with members of my wife's family, including my mother-in-law.
I explained the significance of these beers. I told of the long lines at the GABF, the beers' rarity, and the fact that craft beer lovers across the country and around the world would love to have the opportunity to share these beers. 
Maybe I laid it on a little too thick.
The reception to the beers was underwhelming. The Raspberry Tart was up first. My mother-in-law, who makes no bones about saying what she thinks, made a puckery face and scowled at me. I overheard my brother-in-law say that he had had that beer before, and "it wasn't any good."
Keep in mind, this was the same brother-in-law who frowned and asked after tasting a Dale's Pale Ale, "Ooh. What's that taste?"
I responded, "It's taste."
Back to the party. Most were polite and went back to the margarita punch after trying the beer. However, there were a couple of guests who made the good beer face and asked for more. Needless to say, they were first in line when the cherry beer was opened.
The good news is that I was left with most of the beer to enjoy myself. My wife loves both beers, but she's the smart one of the family and had the car keys in her pocket.
What's the lesson? From now on, I'm only going to share really good beers with those who approach me and express an interest - especially the rare beers. I know I have a responsibility to spread the word about good beers, but bad beer drinkers have to have an open mind to be eligible for conversion.
You can lead a bad beer drinker to good beer, but unless they ask for it, they're not going to get to drink.
Happy holidays.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Not Quite Snowbound in Central Indiana

This week has been a little rough. First off, the weather: Cold and icy early early this week - and roads slick enough that I spun my car into a mailbox, then a day where the temperature mysteriously touched the low fifties before plummeting back to the teens, but worst of all, a canceled roundtable with my Hoosier Beer Geek co-conspirators (all for fear of weather that never happened). So the current temperature, a balmy ten degrees, is not what really what I was hoping for. At least it's not snowing.

I've made the best of what I've been given, though - I made a big pot of chickpea curry, and now I'm enjoying it with a Left Hand Snow Bound Winter Ale. Believe it or not, this is a beer I had a small part in creating - while on a trip out west for GABF this year, we stopped in at Left Hand and helped produce the orange zest used in the beer.

This is a darker beer, with a color that's only slightly darker than the brown of your typical beer bottle. A really thin head leaves a nice lacing on the glass. A strong ginger nose won't be a huge surprises to anyone that's had Left Hand's Juju Ginger, but for those of you who haven't had a ginger beer, it's not what you might call a typical beer element. The front is all ginger, with a hint of honey and orange, and is followed up with a creamy mouthfeel and a nice alcohol zing on the back. This is an 8.6% ABV beer, and it leaves a nice warming feeling in the throat and stomach - the perfect kind of antidote to a gusty winter's day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beer Ink Number 1

Meet Andy. He is the manager of "The Heorot", a damn fine place to find craft beer in Muncie. Tattoos are all the rage and this one caught my eye being a lover of all things Three Floyds. I asked Andy why he decided to get a Gorch Fock Helles tattoo on his arm. He said it was the artwork. Gumballhead is his favorite Three Floyds beer. He also enjoyed the Moloko milk stout when it was available. Andy is also a fan of Stone RIS and Left Hand Milk Stout.

We love our craft beer in Muncie Indiana and some people show it on their skin. I will follow this post up with another bartender from the same place who has a Dark Horse Scotty Karate tattoo on her thigh. I just wanted to share this.

JeffreyT (Alpha King)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beercasting and Double Dead Guy

In vino veritas, right? For you non-latin speaking folk, that means that in wine, there speaks truth. But what about beer? Beer is surely the voice of the common man, and nobody gets more common than the fine folk at Big Foamy Head. In an attempt to bring our version of class and culture to the great unwashed masses (that be's you folks) we bring you a glimpse into the makings of a podcast. Although our great friend Jeffrey T. hosts this blog, and is a world-renowned podcaster himself, he's rather selfish and prefers to be pimpin' rather than providin'.
So we're providing a peek at our great after show beer, the Rogue Double Dead Guy Ale! Beautiful beer, amber in color, but you gotta understand that we're three beers in with an average of 10% ABV. The Double Dead Guy comes in at 9% alcohol, so we really have to study this beer because we aren't suffering under the weight of the crushing alcohol burden - not that we don't like that sort of thing.
Mike: My first impression is that the two skulls on the bottom - skulls and crossbones - and the bold red color of the bottle is very impressive. Pours a beautiful amber and golden color, clear with no chill haze, nice lacing on the glass and the first taste is bitter hops, clean finish, little malt.
Dick: I've been a fan of Dead Guy for a long time, having actually purchased an entire keg. Almost over did it, but obviously not. The Double is a subtle double - it doesn't smack my bitch up, but instead gives her a good workout. It's a clean finish and the hop and malt balance is perfect. A nice double. Personally, I think it should always be double. Beats the regular Dead Guy hands down.
Rick: The regular Dead Guy, it's a fake German-Mexican beer. I'm sitting in Colorado, so I'm screwed at tasting this.
Mike: The Rogue website calls this a strong Doppelbock, tan head, with a vigorous poor, some spiciness, resinous, quite bitter.
Rick: We drank an entire keg one weekend. Supposed to be a Maibock, but it's an ale.
Mike: As a dopplebock, the flavor is out of character but the flavor seems more acceptable.
Dick: Okay, let's agree to disagree. It's not a lager but has the lager characteristics of a clean finish, and will pound you over a good barbecue.
Mike: And I think it's enjoyable and a surprisingly hoppy and bitter, enjoyable drink.
Rick: Got the Rogue's Pacman yeast and free range coastal water.

More after-show drunken beer reviews coming your way soon!

Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown Ale

Leinenkugel's has always walked that line between micros and macros. Many refer to their beers as gateway beer, an introduction to more flavorful, full bodied beers that while not as good as microbrews, offer an alternative to Miller and Budweiser products (though it should be noted that Leinenkugels is owned by MillerCoors). Lately they have eschewed more traditional beers, dumping the Northwoods Lager and the Big Butt Dopplebock for these gimmicky sweet beers aimed at non-beer drinkers like the Summer Shandy (beer & lemonade taste..bleech), Sunset Wheat (often compared to Fruity Pebbles), and the Apple Spice (a bad attempt at cider). The Fireside Nut Brown (and the beer that follows it, the 1888 Bock) hopefully signals a return to what made Leinenkugel's one of the most popular breweries in Wisconsin; medium bodied, easy drinking beers.

The Fireside Nut Brown beer has far more flavor than I expected, its malty and sweet, almost to the point where you could call it sticky. There is a lingering pleasant caramel/maple syrup aftertaste that really appealed to me. However, there still was something about this beer that almost tasted fake, much like the Sunset Wheat, but I still kind of enjoyed it. The carbonation seems excessive for this style of beer, kind of like that Budweiser American Ale. Had it had a little less effervescence it would have been better. Nonetheless, its one the better Leinenkugel's offerings in a long time. After two of these I grew tired of the sweetness and had to change to something else, which is par for the course for many of Leinenkugel's offerings.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

I think it would pair well with autumn fare like butternut squash or something with some acidity to balance out the sweetness like a roasted beet salad with a tangy vinaigrette. One could probably argue that it would be great on pancakes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Because she's as sweet as tupelo honey...

Now that I have a Van Morrison song stuck in your head...

The Terrapin Sunray Wheat beer is a 4.5% Hefeweizen and pours a thin light golden color with a decent amount of head and lacing. This beer provides a favorable aroma of wheat and citrus. Flavor is a crisp wheat and honey combination and a provides a sweet aftertaste.

An impressive beer brewed with tupelo honey from the Savannah Bee Company.

This is an exceptional session beer and although I'm not a huge fan of the style this one is somewhat different. This may be due to the addition of the honey, regardless I'm a fan.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just in time for winter, a homegrown Baltic beauty

Had this, the newest entry into Alaskan Brewing's celebrated coterie of craft offerings, arrived on my doorstep a mere month ago, any mention of it would have warranted inevitable, innumerable references to the visible proximity of Alaska to our neighbor country, Russia. But that was then, and this is December, a cold December to be sure, one when dark and roasty beers hovering around the 10% alcohol level make themselves quite at home. With a nearly luminescent label depicting an onion dome set afront a star-filled winter's sky, this ale, like their takes on alt and kölsch, is a decidedly stateside iteration of the Baltic Porter style. Like their barley wine and smoked porter, too, it's a reminder that this is a brewery that can do great things when free to take a big and bold approach. Without an overly heavy feel, this beer doles out dry fig and licorice in spades, with a compliment of hop and roast bitterness that doesn't dominate the taste as has become increasingly common like burnt coffee in American strong dark ales, Imperial stouts and the like.

Brewed with Madagascar vanilla beans and black cherries, and aged on toasted French oak, it respectfully doesn't punish the taster with these novel touches, marrying the effects of each quite well into the fabric of the malts. A textbook fireside ale, it demands to be paired carefully, deliberately. Good thing my two-year old daughter had just helped make a batch of gingerbread cookies. Between the molasses and the vanilla, you couldn't ask for a more perfect fit. Don't believe me?  Try it:

1 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark molasses
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup hot water
6 cups flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tbsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves

Cream the sugar and shortening together. Add molasses, vinegar and vanilla. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Mix in wet ingredients, alternating between the hot water and creamed mixture. Chill the dough for one hour before rolling out to 1/8" thick. Cut into awesome shapes. Bake 10-15 minutes at 350º F. Let cool on rack (or not) and enjoy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Falling into The Abyss.

Slowly sipping the remaining portion of Descheutes The Abyss. A Russian Imperial Stout that is on the edge of extreme. Pours a midnight coal black with a medium brown, thick creamy head. Aroma is strong with burnt roast coffee, bitter chocolate, heavy cream and hints of floral hops. The coffee dominates as the beer reaches room temperature.

For an 11% ABV beer, the alcohol is a ninja that slowly creeps up and then attacks with a vengeance halfway through the second glass. The flavor matches that of the aroma, heavy on burnt espresso and chocolate, with hints of cream. Bitterness is a product of the roast grains, hop bitterness is in the background. As the beer warms the bitter espresso dominates, with hints of vanilla sweetness. This beer is thick, oily and very quickly numbing.

While fully within the style guidelines, I personally would like to see more sweetness associated with this beer to balance out the roasty burnt flavors. I have another bottle and will probably acquire some more to see how a year of aging affects the end product.

While I'll probably go to hell for saying this, I don't necessarily think this beer is anymore worthy of it's price than a more common RIS like Old Rasputin. It's a great beer, but nothing uniquely spectacular makes it stand out from anything unless you factor in the awesome bottle with the thick black wax around the neck. While I would never turn this beer down, If I happened to miss a release I would not be devestated either.

Lowcountry Beer Drinkers Gem

The Charleston Beer Exchange

Some friends came by yesterday, and we headed downtown to play tourist with them. I thought I pretty much knew all the places I wanted to know already - except some restaurants I've yet to try.

As we needed to buy some liquor for another upcoming event, we dropped into The Tavern Liquor Store on East Bay Street.

We got talking to Gary, the owner, and a guy came in with a container of beer. Turns out it came from The Charleston Beer Exchange which is right nearby on Exchange Street.

We took a walk in, and found a wonderful stock of beers from around the world. Many top-class Belgian ales, and some local craft beers, including those from The Coast Brewery in North Charleston.

The way it works is quite simple. Initially you buy a container for $5, and then you have it filled with the draft beer of your choice. I chose the excellent Coast ESB. That cost $12. When you've drunk the beer, you bring it back, and get it refilled with more draft beer of your choice.

They are currently open from 11am -9pm Monday thru Saturday, and from Noon - 6pm on Sundays.

The Charleston Beer Exchange has been open only around a month, but I'm sure it will prove popular with visitors and residents alike. I know for certain that I'll be back there again!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Track Town 200 Meter

Oh how I miss Oregon. I have vacationed there for the last two years. I have spent quite a bit of time in Eugene since a friend and former cast member of my show lives there. KB lives right across the street from the Ducks stadium. On to the beer. This Eugene offering is produced by Rogue. I have been to Newport twice and enjoyed the hell out of the food and beer there. Rogue on the other hand, is usually scoffed by myself here in Indiana. They are a good brewery but when I am out or canvassing a liquor store, Rogue never seems to make it in my glass or shopping cart. Blame it on Three Floyds, Founders or Bells I guess.

This little beauty showed up on the chalkboard of my neighborhood pub which I have had 1054 different beers at. It sucks to live near the biggest selection of beer in Indiana at a bar. Well this Eugene Track Town 200 Meter showed up for $2.75 a bomber and I dived in. Man was it good. Being a IPA guy I noticed the fade. Probably been sitting down in the cellar for a while before they brought it up. Other than that it was a great IPA. Picked out some Amarillo which was later confirmed with my Ipod touch. Funny thing about this beer was that I tried to order it at the Concordia Ale House in Portland since they had it on special. I was denied. I wish I wasn't because I would like to try this fresher. I highly recommend this beer to any Amarillo fans out there and I am going to look for it at a carry-out tonight hoping for something younger.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finding the right beer.

I was at a bar with some friends a few weeks back. One of my companions, Whitney, asked me why I like beer. It tastes bad, she said. It smells bad, she said. It's too filling, she said.

Of course, I (with some help of a couple other beer-swilling comerades) was able to counter all of those reasons. Beers come in an almost infinite number of flavors, tastes and aromas, we said. And if she thought it was too filling, there are plenty of beers that taste great but don't leave you feeling stuffed.

Whitney scoffed, as I knew she would. And I and my beer-loving buddies said eventually she'd find the right beer for her and dropped the subject as she consumed a hard liquor-based concoction with an unnatural color and that seemed to contain a lot of very dessert-like ingredients.

I was once like Whitney. I remember the first time I really tried beer in earnest. I was at a bar in Urbana, Illinois. I was visiting my now-ex-girlfriend Olga at college (I was still in high school in Chicago) and she and I met up with some of her friends and a couple of my cousins at a bar called Murphy's. At that time, my underaged alcohol consumption was limited to mostly vodka-based beverages - often vodka with cranberry juice - and some silly concoctions only underage drinkers trying to put together the most potent drinks for the least money could enjoy.

But my cousin David - a rabid consumer of good beer - decided I needed to drink beer. And Olga, born and raised in Poland and in possession of a very fine beer palette, agreed. So David, being over 21, went to the bar and got me (as well as himself and Olga) a beer. It was a Leinenkugel Red. He placed it in front of me and I looked at it. I smelled it. I took a small sip. I didn't care for it one bit. I managed to get it finished, but I didn't enjoy it at all.

At that point, if you told me I'd be posting to a blog about beer, I would have called you nuts. But Olga was determined that I'd like beer somehow. And so she kept introducing me to different beers - dark beers, light beers, ales, lagers, lambics, porters, stouts, IPAs, and everything in between.

And lo and behold, after trying a host of different beers, I found some that I began to like. And as I started to like more beers, I started trying more beers and finding more I liked.

To this day, I still don't like Leinenkugel Red. But I came back to beer because despite a bad first experience, I kept my mind open to the idea the beer could be a wonderful thing. And like Olga and David told me, I now tell people who say they don't like beer they simply haven't found the right beer yet.

If there's a moral here, it's that finding the right beer can be a daunting task, especially with all the crappy beer out there. But with a little help, I think even the most rabid beer opponent can find a beer they enjoy.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Spitfire! on

Backwoods Bastard

I live in the middle of no-where. Muncie Indiana actually. Believe it or not, being a huge craft beer cheerleader, I could eliminate all the breweries we can get sitting in the "Crossroads of America" down to three and still be satisfied. The mythical breweries I am talking about are Bell's, Three Floyds and Founders. I bellied up to the bar today and noticed on the chalkboard was "Founders Backwoods Bastard". I ordered one and was not disappointed. I loved this last year and this year's is love too. I am not a big Scotch ale fan, sorry "Dirty Bastard" and "Robert the Bruce" but Backwoods is killer. It chimes in at 10.5 percent and you taste 0 percent. It is 50 ibu on the hops but all you taste is a perfect balance cutting the sweetness. Many Founders beer in bottle have this huge washing machine head but this one pours nicely like the Breakfast Stout and the Kentucky. I am not a big bourbon-aged fan either. I have always hated whiskey for the most part. Don't get me wrong, there are some fine bourbon-aged stuff out there and Backwoods is one of them. I do not know the rarity of this offering this year but it was very limited last year. The label has changed this year for some reason. If you find it, buy it. It would make a great present for anybody that appreciates good beer or good trading material for yourself.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

I thought I’d introduce myself since this is my first post, but then I realized your probably don’t care, so let’s get right to the beer!

This is a review of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California.

Though it is only available seasonally, and marketed “especially for the holidays,” this beer is used by the Beer Judge Certification Program as an example of an American IPA and not a spiced or specialty beer. At 6.8% alcohol by volume this beer will give you a nice warm feeling of cheer on a cold winter’s night.

Sierra Nevada lists the ingredients as two-row pale and english caramel malts with chinook hops for bittering, cascade and centennial to finish and dry hop. They just say they use a “top-fermenting ale yeast,” but it’s probably the Chico yeast. If you look at some of the more popular clone recipes, you'll see that's really all there is to it.

The beer pours a clear copper color with a thick, creamy off-white head. The aroma is hoppy with hints of flowers, spice, citrus, and pine with a faint malt sweetness. The beer feels smooth on the tongue with the right carbonation for an American IPA and a crisp finish that leaves you wanting another. It has a good hop bitterness with a nice malt backbone, with hints of unsweetened chocolate and cherry, like biting into a Godiva cherry cordial.

Overall I really like this beer. The wife an I stock up on it every year between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Finally on the boat...

Sorry all, and by the way, Hi, this is spAceFFF. I offered to put in my two cents on beerporn, so hey, gotta start sometime right? Well, my first attempt @ a blog/review/my 2 cents will be a Keweenaw Brewing Co. offering, Lift bridge brown ale. This beer is probably pretty hard to come by, unless for those in the upper midwest, but it caught my eye because Keweenaw cans their beers, which has taken my attention over bottles the past year or so. This is a decent brown ale, I wouldnt cross the country to find it, but if it grabs your eyes or you are near the brewery in the U.P. of Michigan, check it out, its a good brown.

Beer pours with a nice, dark head that sticks to the sides of the glass, and dissipates after a few sips. Beautiful brown color, nice and clear but the lights sneaks through. Very smooth, creamy maltiness with little hints of sweetness & a mild hop bite. Nothing really stands out or jumps at your palate, which isnt a bad thing, but it could have a little more maltiness for my palate to be an above average brown...maybe more body. Again not an awesome brown ale but a very drinkable, tasty session beer. (And its canned). Many argue for or against bottles and cans, which one is better for the beer, environment, storage, cooling down, etc... Working in a brewery has shown the advantages of each package...and I would love to someday see more cans in the craft industry. The largest issue with canning may be the cost; a new, basic, 60 cpm (cans per minute) filler runs about 250,000 dollars, not including rinsers, packaging machines & labelers. So, gotta dip in the pockets for this type of packaging.

Well, Keweenaw makes a good brown ale, and I know they have many other offerings (only 3 in cans), the rest I assume on tap at the brewpub. Next time I am in the U.P. I will definitely be hitting up the brewery for a tour and perhaps one of their many styles of beer. Currently this brewery is producing about 3000 bbls. of goodness per year, so maybe someday they will expand further then MI & WI. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fake Larry Bell

Well it all started when my beloved Vicki and I were having coffee. I glanced across the coffee shop and commented to her, "That guy looks like Larry Bell". She agreed and also noted that his hair even looks the same. I knew it wasn't the real Larry Bell but the similarity was striking. He came close to the counter where we always sit and being the shy guy that I am, I let him know that he has a famous twin in Kalamazoo. "I feel sorry for him." the man said. "Don't be. He is a millionaire and a famous brewer." I replied. I quickly jumped aboard the internet with my Ipod and showed him this picture. Come to find out, he is Pastor and his name is Matt. He doesn't like beer and Vicki stated to him, "You have not had any good beer yet." They struck up a conversation and I posed in a picture with this impostor. She even gave him some beer suggestions.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Breakfast Stout: Not just for breakfast anymore

I don't care what the calendar says: Autumn is so over. Unless you're one of those lucky people living somewhere that escapes a real winter, you're either feeling the cold start to creep into your bones, or you will soon. It's that time of the year, time to clear out your stash of fall favorites (you aren't still drinking Oktoberfest, are you?) and pick up some beers that will do a better job at warming you up.

A good imperial stout is hard to beat. I had to bring this one back from Massachusetts, but I'm drinking Founders Breakfast Stout. This 8.3% ABV oatmeal stout is one of the best comfort beers out there, with a luscious oatmeal texture rounding out its considerable bitterness. With only 25 IBUs, it needs more than just hops to balance out the big malt load. The heavy doses of two kinds of coffee and two kinds of chocolate complete the package, especially in the aroma. This is a bold beer. That said, it isn't scary. Every element of this beer is in balance, including the alcohol, which is present but not overwhelming. The scariest part about it might be its appearance. This beer is jet black and completely opaque, even when I briefly held my glass right up to a light bulb. The head is brown. The beer looks intimidating. But again, this is not an imperial stout designed to shock you. It is designed to comfort you.

Most imperial stouts don't have oatmeal, but even without the silky texture that oatmeal provides, good imperial stouts shouldn't be overpowering with alcohol. They should be balanced, warming you gently from the inside after you swallow. No beer should ever taste "hot" in the mouth. This one, like the best imperial stouts, tastes hugely roasty and bittersweet, with many layers of flavor to tease out. Enjoy it.

The imperial stout is one of my favorite styles, especially this time of year. Like Founders Breakfast Stout, many are only brewed once a year, so grab them before someone else does. Try cellaring a few, if you're into that, and you'll find some of the bitterness drop, the alcohol flavor mellow, and some sherry-like flavors might even develop. It's my understanding that darker beers age better than lighter beers. If you don't want to bother cellaring, don't. Brewers work hard to make their products drinkable as soon as they leave the brewery. As for me, I'll be enjoying the rest of my Founders Breakfast Stout over the next few weeks. I'll also try making my own version, complete with coffee and chocolate, very soon.

Stay warm.

Tis the Season!

A Scottish Christmas? Traditionally the Scottish people celebrate on New Year's Day (named Hogmanay). Since the church of Scotland is the Presbyterian Church, they do not celebrate as others do as the church does not think much of the festivities of Christmas. Those who follow the Church of England keep it low key as their church does not approve of loud, unruly behavior.

Also according to my research, the Scottish folks have an odd tradition. If the fire goes out on Christmas Eve, the family will have bad luck in the coming year. According to custom, mischievous elves climb down the chimney and cause troubles in the family, however a fire in the hearth or bonfire will scare them away (dirty little elves!)

Why am I telling you about customs of a Scottish Christmas you ask? It is because I'm about to embark on a review of a Scottish Christmas Ale. I give you....

Bell's Christmas Ale
This particular beer did not produce much head in my Abbaye De Floreffe goblet which is to be expected in this particular choice of glassware and my pouring method. As I let the beer sit a moment a small head of froth appeared at the top of the glass.
This beer poured a ruby to dark red color with a cloudy appearance. The aroma is of faint spices and plum notes, almost herbal with a hint of malts and hops detected.
The taste is malty and medium bodied and although a great beer, it is a bit unremarkable for a Scottish ale in my opinion. With that said I think this is a great beer to share with family and friends around the upcoming Christmas holiday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA

I wont lie... I love this beer... So, if unbiased reviews are your thing... Skip ahead.

I always feel at home with a bottle of Crooked Tree. If you could take the comfort of warm milk... And make it an overhopped Midwestern IPA... Well, this would be a fine example.

It pours with the consistency of milk... Nice and smooth... The head bubbles nice and thick like pancakes on the griddle! Man... The only other beer that has a better mouth-feel might be the Tres Blueberry Stout from the same brewery. Once you get a feel for those bitter hops wrapped in that smooth package... You start to feel like you are eating a rich desert. You begin to savor each sip.

I read or heard somewhere that these guys have a retro roadhouse style brewpub... The brewer is an artist who draws all the labels... And he is known to grow totally unkempt beards. These kind of nuggets of info only add to the character that is the Dark Horse brand. Not that this beer needs any help with character!

Seek out Dark Horse beers!

FFF BrooDoo Harvest Ale

According to the bottle... "BrooDoo Harvest Ale is a seasonal ale that glorifies American hops. BrooDoo is brewed using fresh green "wet" hops picked right from the vine and put into our beer vats, from vine to brewhouse in one day! BrooDoo also uses the best American malt money can but. Enjoy."

Broodoo is an awesome harvest ale... To be quite honest its probably hoppier than most IPA's. The hop aroma, the hop flavor, and the hop residuals are very powerful but not over whelming...

Harvest Ale

It pours a nice amber almost orange color with a nice head (don't let the pics deter you... I was slow to the camera) With a very strong citrus (grapefruit) and pine hop aroma it hints at what is to come...

The flavor is a great balance between biscuit maltiness and fresh wet hop bitterness... With the hops coming back after the swallow... This is a great everyday beer... but maybe its just me... I mean its only 5.5% and lets not forget about the label...

Trolls attack!!!!

With a label like that the beer had better be top notch to back it up... And this one succeeds!

Overall review...


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

My loyal readers (ok basically me) know that Im not a big fan of Belgian beers... But I decided to give this "Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence" a shot on the recommendations of many very well respected beer snobs... Mainly Bubby, JH and the crew from SIDT.

The bottle is a classic Belgian style large bomber with cork and safety wire... There is a slight pop with removal of the cork that leads some anticipation into the process. Upon the initial pour, the "onyx black" stout pours fills my snifter with a great presence and nice dark brown head that stands tall and proud. I am able to pick up a very slight but dense dark chocolate aroma mixed with a large malt backbone. Upon initial taste I don't feel any of the 7% ABV, nor do I taste ANY chocolate!! Uh Oh... I recheck the bottle... yes it is indeed called "Chocolate Indulgence Stout" but there is no initial chocolate flavor. As the beer begins to warm I do pick up a very, and I mean very (in all honesty it might be all mental) slight actual dark chocolate flavor. Now, I DO taste a TON of chocolate malt... in fact this is a very malty beer... with only a slight bitterness added from the perle hops. this is a very nice malty beer... Again with my lack of knowledge of "true Belgian" beer styles I would say that this being characterized as a "stout" would be a stretch... I would lean more twords a dubbel than a stout.

So overall a very nice malty Belgian that unfortunately falls short of the "chocolate" moniker. If you are looking for real chocolate flavor may I suggest this stout...

In review... Very balanced malt flavor, with little chocolate flavor or aroma... So it gets a rating of...

"Decent representation of the style"

choc indulgance

A giant among IPA?

As I was paroling the shelves in the basement to find a beer to settle down and finish the holiday weekend with, I couldn't help but wonder what was hiding behind that Waxed Red Bottle Cap!
The Skeleton holding a hop bush in it's mouth gives me a pretty fair idea, but all the same, I do love imperial IPA!
Ska Brewing out of Durango Colorado is close enough to be considered a "Local Brew" for me, and I think that this Decadence Imperial IPA will fit the bill for the evening. With some of the other beers that come from Colorado, I've got high hopes. We don't make no junk!
The bottle opens with a citrus note, and a nice hiss. The bottle is just a tad larger than my "Big Beer" glass, at 22 oz. This leaves me room to make a nice aggressive pour and still have a swig from the bottle.
The Citrus nose has given way to a solid hop aroma, but not over powering, and not nearly what I'd expected judging by the label (I feel an old cliche here. There is a nice creamy head that is NOT what I expected from an IPA....It is an IMPERIAL IPA however, and the head is much appreciated. There is no over powering hop nose as has become trendy, it's just a solid aroma and a solidly bitter hop character with a perfectly balanced, almost creamy malt background. You would never guess by the flavor that this is a 10% ABV beer! It is as nice as a big IPA gets, and is totally not overbearing. This would be lost in the realms of Ruination, or Pliny the Elder, but is a nicely balanced, very drinkable Imperial IPA, and will be on my "TO BUY AGAIN" list!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Red Hook Double Black Stout

When I first started to get into good beers I was visiting a buddy out in Seattle... I came across Double Black Stout from Red Hook ... Awesome!!! Amazing!!! I came back home to Illinois or Michigan (where the hell I lived at the time) And was able to find it.... Scott was happy...

Then a few months passed and poof.... its gone... never to return... (they stopped making it in 2000)

Scott was unhappy...

Scott was unhappy for many years...

So on a recent visit to my local beer shop I stumbled upon it again...

Once again... Scott is happy...

Double Black Stout with coffee

It pours jet black with a nice warm tan head... good strong lacing... awesome roasted coffee aroma with a hint of alcohol... Warm roasty flavors... with a nice, not over powering nor "subtle hint" of coffee... No alcohol finish... but as it warms up you can catch just a hint of booze... Its very very roasty... that really is the best way to describe it.

Over all great stout... Its in limited release so if you find it... grab one or 12... Exceptional!!!

7.0% ABV

Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale

Flying Dog Canis Major Series: Double Dog Double Pale AleFlying Dog Canis Major Series: Double Dog Double Pale Ale

Part of the Flying Dog Canis Major series, Double Dog Double Pale Ale pours a yellow redish honey color with a puffy white head. The head thins down relatively quickly and a nice sharp hop aroma really comes out.

12 Seconds of Double Dog pour goodness. on

As I imbibe the thin head sticks quite nicely to the glass. Not overly carbonated the beer has an excellent mouth feel and thick quality to it. The 11.5% ABV is masked nicely by the 85 IBU of the hops along with the malt. I cannot taste the alcohol but definitely feel a pleasurable mild warming in the belly. This is a nicely bitter beer and at the end of the taste the interaction of the strong hops presence melds very well with a malty sweetness making the Double Dog Double Pale Ale a very well balanced beer.

Glass after the Double Dog Double Pale Ale

If you haven't tasted the Double Dog I highly recommend giving it a try. Look for the Ralph Steadman artwork of an acid trippy dog in tighty whiteys lunging at two glasses of beer.

Flying Dog Canis Major Series: Double Dog Double Pale Ale

For a good Black and Tan, I suggest the Double Dog with the Gonzo Imperial Porter (another of my favorites - review coming soon).

53/366 - 20080222: Flying Dog Black and Tan


Friday, November 28, 2008

Autumn Maple

I first tried this beer at the 2008 GABF… Going on a few recommendations to seek out The Bruery and give them a shot. Ill be the first one to admit that Im not a fan of most Belgian beers… Although I do LOVE sour beers… But anyway, I found these guys at the GABF and was blown away by all of their beers … Their Orchard White and Black Orchard were awesome… but hands down my favorite beer from them was their Autumn Maple… (one of my favorite beers in the whole place along with Coffee Bender from Surly Brewing

From their site:
Autumn Maple: Brewed with 17 lbs. of yams per barrel (in other words, a lot of yams!), this autumn seasonal is a different take on the “pumpkin” beer style. Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup, and fermented with our traditional Belgian yeast strain, this bold and spicy beer is perfect on a cold autumn evening.

ABV: 10%, IBU: 25, SRM: 15, Release: Fall

Im still learnign the whole "photography" thing... so bear with me

The beer poured with little to no head… right away in the aroma you could pick up the yams… and yes, you could tell that is was NOT pumpkin… as the beer continued to warm up you could taste more and more of the spices I was able to pick up the molasses, vanilla, and nutmeg the most… It was not heavy like a stout… more like a light porter or strong ale… At 10% it was quite warming although I never felt like the alcohol EVER overpowered any flavor… This would of been a great beer to share… but lucky for me there were no other beer fans close… so more for me!!!

So if you’re even in So. Cal go check out The Bruery… This beer definitely gets an “Exceptional” rating…

Sam Adams Chocolate Bock

I am not a huge fan of ole Sam Adams. I do appreciate their beers when I am traveling since they more available. There is one exception though. It is called Chocolate Bock. I had the pleasure today to drink this beer on draft with my beloved. She loves it too. Chocolate dominates the flavor since they actually put chocolate in it. I crave dark lagers usually during Oktoberfest but this hoppy ale guy will always reach for this Sam Adams. It is a treat. The price was nice too at $5.75 a pint.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cuvee Series One (Oak Aged Series)

The term Cuvee is taken from cuve, meaning vat or tank. The term can also be applied to wine or champagne to refer to a batch that is blended or pressed a certain way. With that little educational tidbit out of the way I give you my review of Southern Tier’s Cuvee Series One (Oak Aged Ale).

Southern Tier Brewing is located out of Lakewood, NY and offers some great beers in several styles that some would label as non-traditional, this one is no different.
This beer pours a copper color with not much head retention and little aroma to speak of, with the oak aroma being the most relevant. There is also a slight buttery to almost vanilla smell to this offering.

The taste is a buttery, sweet flavor with a hint of bourbon and vanilla.

For an 11% American Strong Ale this beer is smooth. Although a bit pricey ($17 a bottle in the Pittsburgh area) I would recommend this beer for at least a one-time tasting.

Pizza and Beer, New Orleans Style

Does beer taste better depending on where you sit? In some cases it does. Abita isn't really known for their superior beverages, mainly just as the beer you drink on Bourbon Street. That's okay, better than being known for sucking. Their offerings are all similar in taste and character, not a lot of difference between their Abita Amber, Turbo Dog or Pecan Harvest. The Abita Purple Haze has a little juice in it, but they all have that underlying sameness, which makes them popular in restaurants in the South. Abita Jockamo is different. For one, it's their only IPA and adventure into hops. That sameness found in all of their other beers isn't present here. It's not much of a nose, but a great taste and a super clean finish. Or does it?
I did pose the question of where you sit. Some beers carry themselves on flavor alone, especially when we're talking about IPAs. But others are the weaker sisters and if their sibling beers are somewhat boring and obvious, they can appear even lesser in quality. But put yourself in the right ambiance and serve the right food and you have a much higher degree of satisfaction. I can testify that there is only one way to drink an Abita Jockamo IPA: in a pint glass, sitting in a bar in New Orleans, enjoying a po' boy or other NOLA cuisine. There's nothing like it. The flavor of the city, the flavor of the food, and the flavor of the beer all meld into a drinking experience that has to be experienced. In this case, I was sitting in a little pizza joint on Decatur that I know that makes a unique pizza - a Central Grocery Muffaletta Pizza. New Orleans jazz is playing on the stereo, and I'm chowing down on a hand-tossed pizza with salami, pepperoni, prosciutto and the original muffalleta olive spread. The Jockamo's light, citrusy notes work well with the pizza sauce, the spices in the salami, the sharp prosciutto tastes, and the richness from the olive spread and oils. The finish of the beer is quicker than most IPAs and leaves you with a clean taste that doesn't fight with your food. A perfect pairing that can only be found in one city in the world, and that really kicks off the Cajun theme, laissez les bon temps roulez.

Avery Brewing Company - A Decade of Hog Heaven

I was recently fortunate enough to be at the Avery “A Decade of Hog Heaven Barleywine Style Ale: 1998 to 2008“. Adam Avery was hosting the evening and the cellared beer came from his personal supplies. We wiped out his 1999 inventory. It was a remarkable beer tasting - not many US craft breweries can offer a 10 year vertical of their product.
The evening started with an open bar. I didn’t take detailed notes on these, but the special taps I remember included a brett IPA, an oaked Samael, and a dry hopped Ale to the Chief (out of this world good!) The food was exceptional. Heavy hors d’oeuvres - olives, many hard and soft cheeses, caprese salad, salami, roast beef, a cheese sauce drizzle on fresh veggies, crackers, etc. It was a very nice spread.

The Avery staff were hustling! I felt like offering to help - Adam, CV, Peter, Ted and Clarice were busy setting up the flights. CV provided us with a really nifty hand out “What happened to my bottle of Hog?”. It goes into depth regarding the science of what happens as beer ages… heat/alcohol decreasing due to ethanol conversion to acetaldehyde, hop aroma and bitterness decreasing, sweetness and toffee flavors increasing.

The flights, with my tasting notes, is as follows:
August 2008 - Dank, Herbal. A real hop bomb. 122 IBU, fresh hop aroma. All columbus hops - bittering, midboil, finish and dry hopping. 1.082 OG, 1.016 FG.
January 2007 - Bottled with new bottling line, reducing oxygen levels. Still very hoppy. Malts more prevalent. Starting to develop dried fruit character.
March 2006 - Hops starting to fade. Smoother, not as aggressive.
June 2005 - Sweetness starting to develop. Some oxidation characteristics noted (low levels of cardboard.)
June 2004 - Approaching english style barleywine. I noticed more heat, or a higher alcohol presence. Creamy mouthfeel. Smooth character.
March 2003 - Caramel flavors approaching molasses. This was a favorite for some at our table. Less nose then previous, increasing creaminess in the mouthfeel. Increasing oxidation characteristics.
June 2002 - “real sweet”. Okay, my notes are starting to fall off here.
February 2001 - Fruit prevalent. Some smokiness coming through. Darkest in color of all the samples. Hoppier then ‘02.
June 2000 - Soft. Sweet. Oxidation increasing - noticeable cardboard. Malt forward. Fruitiness including plum and raisin.
November 1999 - “Dry” according to my notes, but it had a higher finishing gravity then todays standards (1.098 OG, 1.030 FG.) Sherry taste prevalent.

My favorite of the evening was the fresh hog - I love the hop bombs and Adam admitted that if they were naming the beer now, they would call it an Imperial IPA. Ten years ago that wasn’t a common beer style though.

There was some news regarding Avery’s release of Brubant - this is a Baltic Porter that has Orval Brett and the house Brett (same as was used in the 15th Anniversary Ale) which is aged in Norman Vineyard Zinfandel barrels. 600 cases will be released in January or February.

Avery brews 17,000 BBLs annually. They make 8000 cases of Hog which is brewed every 3 months. To quote Adam “without hog, we’re out of business.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jubelale 2008

According to Deschutes website, Jubelale was the first beer the brewery bottled. Each year, a different artist creates a unique and seasonal label. This year Sister's resident, Pam Jersey Bird was chosen for her seasonal painting which depicts a river running across the bottle. Visitors to the Bend brewery can view each year's unique label.

The 2008 Jubelale is a dark coffee like brew with a bouquet of dried fruit and an ABV of 6.7%. Don't let the dark color scare you off. It is a friendly tasty beer with a malty aftertaste that is pretty pleasant. It's only available from October to December so you better act fast.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Coffee Bender (In A Growler)

It was a lucky day last Saturday when I was standing in line for the some of the last growlers to be sold at Surly. I had a great plan of two furious, two bender. When I got near the front I discovered they had Coffee Bender for sale, in a growler... How cool is this! Plan derailed but I now have a more better new plan.
I've had coffee bender before at the brewery and some bars around town. I don't think its hard to find if you live in the area ( Twin Cities, check the Muddy Pig and Happy Gnome, I believe I've had it both places). It pours with a good sized head, tan. The beer itself is a deep brown maybe slightly reddish, I have a hard time telling in my lighting situation. The smell is coffee for sure. Very strong coffee, a nice dark roast, like the kind my grandpa used to make on the stove when I was a kid, but without the grounds getting stuck in your teeth. You get a little bitterness at the front of your nose, and then it smooths out as I breathe deeper. I can smell a lot of chocolate in this one too. Then the taste. A nice malty sweetness hits the front of my tongue, followed by the bitterness of the coffee near the back of my mouth. The coffee isn't over powering, and its backed by a nice hop flavor. For me I notice the coffee more in the back of my mouth and the aftertaste. To my taste the hops are not as forward as other Surly beers, but its hard to compete with the coffee. There is good balance between the malty taste and the coffee. Its very tasty. I hear it's coming to cans soon so hopefully it will show up in your neighborhood soon.

The six-pack conundrum

It's a shame to waste beer. I think that's something we can all agree on. But is there ever an occasion when it's ok?

Here's the scenario. I don't keep a ton of beer in my apartment. I have enough for me to enjoy one with dinner on most nights and some in reserve in case I have a couple friends over. But when I drink beer with larger groups, it's usually at a bar because neither my apartment nor my fridge are large enough to accomodate the supply of beer needed for a large, thirsty crowd.

As a result, the beer in my apartment is generally limited to the six-pack (or however much of it is left) in my fridge and another in reserve waiting for that other six-pack to be finished off.

As the picture shows, I've got three bottles of beer in my refrigerator. Those with a keen eye will recognize it as a beer I'm not terribly excited about, though it's not bad. Not in my fridge is a pack of a much tastier beer that I definitely get excited to drink.

Here's where the conundrum comes in. I'm hesitant to put another full pack of beer in my fridge before I finish this one off. I feel like I should get through this one before moving on. I started it, so I should see it through to the end. It's kind of like my justification for still watching ER - I've been watching it since the beginning, so I should finish watching through the last season. My other thought is that if I don't finish this beer, I'll never get it out of my fridge.

But, as with the show (especially over the last couple seasons), that's not easy when you're dealing with a mediocre product. So I'm contemplating just leaving those bottles in there and moving on and trying to push them on other people when they come over - or just getting rid of them.

But as I said, I hate to waste beer, even of the mediocre variety. So what do I do? Do I try and pawn it off on others? Do I just leave it there and when I eventually move out of this apartment, leave it as a gift for the new tenant? Do I dump it? Or is there another option I'm not considering?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My quest for the perfect pumpkin beer - part 1

One of the best parts about the fall and winter is seasonal beers. Winter for me is all about stouts and porters. They're heavy and wonderful and they warm you up on a cold night.

As far as I'm concerned, fall is about one thing: pumpkin beer. The best ones taste like an alcoholic pumpkin pie, but a bit less sweet and definitely not bitter (not that I don't love a good bitter beer, but bitter and pumpkin do not play well together). They're heavier than the wheats I enjoy during the summer, but not quite as heavy as my stouts and porters.

Every year, I go on a quest for the perfect pumpkin beer. This year, the quest began with America's Original Pumpkin Ale, by Buffalo Bill's Brewery. Alas, though I'd read some decent reviews of it, the quest did not end with this beer. Not to say it was bad. It was solid, but not great. My biggest complaint was that there was not enough pumpkin or spice flavor. It was there, but it should have been stronger.

I think this particular pumpkin ale should go in the category of "go-to" beers. That is, if I need a reliably decent pumpkin beer, I'll go with this. It's the same category I put Blue Moon's Harvest Moon in. It will do when I'm in a pinch and nobody will be disappointed by it.

But for now, the quest continues. Anyone who really wants to help me on my journey, please comment. I'll happily try all sorts of pumpkin beers.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blue Frog - Liberation Ale

I had the pleasure of spending a day in Fairfield, CA this past weekend with the wife.  She had an appointment at the salon, so I did what any good husband would do.  I went to BevMo, bought some beer, then headed to the nearest Brewery for a pint to pass the time.  Lucky for me, both BevMo AND a brewery were within a couple miles of the salon.

Fairfield's only microbrewery is Blue Frog Grog & Grill. They are a recent operation, probably less then 10 years old. The ambiance of the place is really quite nice. I sat down at the bar, which had glass windows behind it looking into all of the brewing equipment. Recently, they have started to distribute a couple of their beers throughout the Bay Area. Being as that is, I wanted to try something unique that I couldn't get at my local beer store. Written on a chalkboard behind the bar was "Levitation Ale, 6%". That's all the convincing I needed, so I ordered one up.

Right off the bat I was impressed. I have no idea what type of beer it was and didn't ask because I was more intrigued with the Cal/OSU game on the LCD tv's. However, it had a very deep amber color, almost reminding me of an old dirty penny from the 40's or 50's. Holding it up to the light coming through the brewing equipment, you can pretty much see anything through the beer, it was that clear. I took my first sip and it was just WAY too cold to taste anything. After letting it warm up a bit, it turned out to be a very good beer. Nice balance between malt and hops without having the heat of a high ABV value, with a nice medium bodied finish. I really wish they sold this in stores.

As of right now, you can only get the Blonde Ale, Red Ale, IPA, and Double IPA. However they also sell a hefeweizen they sell at the brewery. I picked one up and realized why they probably don't sell it in stores. The label is screen printed upside down and urges you to store it as such. There is a description of the beer stating that doing so will re-activate the yeast upon opening to give the beer a more complex flavor.

Overall it is a very promising brewery. They brought in Nick Campbell, a new brewer, in 2004 and it appears that he is making some quality stuff. I expect them to start distributing in more places soon, so keep an eye out fellas.

Cheers to more beers!

The Relative Amateur speaks!

Compared to probably just about everyone else participating on this terrific blog site, I am definitely a relative amateur when it comes to the world of craft beers. I hate to admit it, but before I met BuBBy (my main partner in the Brain Gravy podcast, as well as a home brewer extraordinaire, and a contributor on this blog site) a few years ago, I was drinking Rolling Rock and thought Guinness was the height of beer existence. Now, thanks to BuBBy and all the amazing podcasts on The Beer Safari like SIDT, The Good Beer Show and The Beer Report, I've developed a pretty darned good appreciation, as well as a palate, for a good craft beer. Hell, I've come so far that when I was forced to drink a Corona a few weeks ago, and it was like drinking seltzer!!!
My beer drinking life began, probably like everyone else, as an underaged teenager. Back then, it was whatever we could get our hand on to drink. In college, my roommates and I successfully managed to drink a different brand of beer every week for a year. Of course, being poor college students, the brands consisted of the usual like Budweiser, Miller, but also beers like Gablinger extra light, which came in a bright orange aluminum can and Stoney's (which bragged about having "no sugar added"). So, yes, I have been a long time expert in drinking the kind of beers that have made Sickpuppy and Father Spoon famous! As time went by, my taste has improved, and, as mentioned above, its only during the past few years that I have discovered the wonderful world of craft beer. So, with that preamble, I will attempt my first beer review for Beerporn!
Being winter time here on the East Coast, I've been recently exploring winter ales. One of my favorite breweries is St. Bernardus, which is located in Belgium. They make wonderful beers like the Abt 12 and Tripel, and, although their beers are a bit pricey, I would highly recommend giving them a try. In any case, I was excited to find their Christmas Ale at my beer store, and quickly grabbed one to try. It came in a very handsome 750 ml corked bomber bottle. Its classified as a Belgian strong dark ale, and is a very healthy 10.0% ABV. It poured a nice dark brown color with a tan-colored head that was about a finger thick with nice lacing. I have learned to take a few moments to take in the aroma of a beer before rushing to a first taste. There was definitely the aroma of spices, along with a hint of cherries, plum and malts. Then the best part: the first taste! It has a fairly sweet taste. I can taste the flavors of malts, along with cherries, plums, and a sort of peppery cinnamon. The yeast flavor is there, but not overwhelming to my palate. It most definitely reminds me of Christmas; I can see myself drinking this beer instead of spiced eggnog around the Christmas tree! The carbonation is just right, and the flavor is light enough that the 10% ABV is well hidden. Overall, it is, so far, my favorite Christmas ale. It goes down maybe a bit too easily, but I would highly recommend this beer. In terms of a relative amateur, this beer is darned good!
Ok, my first post is done. My goal is to try and bring things here from the perspective of a relative newbie to the world of craft beer, and I hope my posts are worthy of this great blog site. Until next post, happy drinking!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Beer Runner Profile: Tom Held

Tim Cigelske writes about beer and fitness -- yes, they can go together -- at The Beer Runner on DRAFT magazine's website. Below is an excerpt of the latest post.

Tom Held’s Off The Couch blog is a big inspiration for me.

Tom is a wealth of knowledge on Wisconsin cross country skiing, running, cycling, outdoor sports advocacy and, yes, good beer.

“This may be a bit sappy,” he told me, “but I think there’s a real community or bonding element to beer.”

A seasoned reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he of course has a source to back up such a claim. Specifically, the camaraderie of Valley Spur, one of his favorite XC ski spots.

“I’ve had people offer me beer, soup, sandwiches and plenty of good stories,” he says. “It’s really part of the joy of the outdoors and physical activity.”

Lucky for me, our paths have crossed before in the newsroom, on the race course and at the finish line beer table. And now on the Beer Runner.

What’s your favorite beer when you’re On the Couch?

Click here for the rest of the column...

Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial India Pale Ale

Week 12 - 52 Beers: Southern Tier Un-Earthly Imperial Indian Pale Ale IPA

The Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA is an unbelievable beverage. From the first crack of the bottle cap to the last sip, this beer engulfs the drinker in an invisible green cloud of some crazy insane hop aroma. The beer pours a darkish honey color with a thick sticky white head. The beer balances this insane hoppyness with the malt to give it an incredible flavor and mouthfeel. It is like hop Koolaide (OH YEAH!) without any hop harshness. It is a very drinkable beer. The 11% ABV is undetectable in the flavor and sneaks up on you. My dream is to one day make a pilgrimage to the brewery in Lakewood, New York and drink this on tap.


Southern Tier Brewing Website

Tap and Bottle Label

Southern Tier Brewing Company

Build That Cellar!

Well I've decided to actually put some thought and effort (read Money) into my beer cellar. I've always stashed a 6 pack of any beer I make, just for good measure, but it's time to start building a cellar stock of commercial beers to go along side of the Home Brew.
Step Number 1 is to clean up this mess!
I began by dragging all of my bottles and boxes out into the open where I can get a good look at them. I will be moving all of this into a closed off room where I can get a better handle on the temperature. This will also double as the equipment storage and carboy ageing space for the wine and beer that I have Bulk Ageing.
I will put away what I can. If it's a $24 12 pack of Sierra Nevada Celebration, I may put 24 bottles down, if it's a $12 bottle of Chimay, I may only get one or 2 per year, but I will keep up with what I can at the time.
As this project progresses, I will keep as detailed of records as I can force my ADD brain to keep. I will keep purchase date and Retailer information, price info.(I hope SWMBO doesn't see!) and any other seemingly relevant information.
I will not expect all of the beer to get better with time, and in fact some will degrade significantly, but I will expect it to change either way. I will be able to offer up some radical vertical tastings of different lines of beer.
With the intent of just having something well aged to sip...I've already got a series of Lindimens and other lambics, the home brews, several Arrogant Bastard bottles,and a few different stouts, including Left Hand Brewery Milk Stout.
With the intent of building vertical tastings, I'm going for the Sierra Nevada Celebration, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Rogue Dead Guy, Double Bastard, and even Ruination.
You know that IPA is going down hill as we speak, but the fact is, it will provide some reference and insight as to the effects of time on beer. Not only will this project be supremely educational, but will be victoriously tasty, and I look forward to every single step along the way.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Holiday Ale

Holiday ale's are usually described as 'big' and 'rich' and usually pack a lot more flavor than their summertime counterparts. These beers are often higher in Alcohol by Volume (ABV) than other special beers and it's been my experience that they are darker and sweeter in nature. Supposedly the holiday beer tradition goes back to medieval times when monks were the primary brewers and strong spicy ales were brewed to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Often times these beers have a subtle but nice spice bouquet added to the recipe blending nicely to the malty/hoppy flavor of the brew.

Brrr is the first winter ale from Widmer in four years and is amber in color with a herby aroma. Brrr packs in a 7.2% ABV which makes it the strongest beer in Widmer's arsenal. It's a nice beer although on the sweet side which is an odd thing for me to say considering I prefer more sweet beers like ambers. It has a nice hoppy aroma and taste that plays well against the dark malty undertones. I bought a 12 ounce bottle of the Brrr at Belmont Station and wonder how it taste at their Gausthaus .I would drink this beer again but wouldn't run through traffic for one.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Not Your Mother's Oatmeal

We're inching toward Winter here in Indianapolis and nothing helps to bolster you in the cold like a good stout. This oatmeal stout from Breckenridge pours a very dark brown with a tan head. Has a nose of oatmeal with some sweet chocolate notes. The taste is smooth with a roasted malt flavor that gives way to a finish of moderate coffee tones. It strikes a decent balance between some of the more mellow stouts and the Russian Imperial Stouts. In all I wouldn't call it exceptional, but a very good beer that is very tasty and drinkable.

Breckenridge makes a host of very good beer, including some small batch varieties. If your local specialty brew shop carries any I highly recommend giving them a try. You will not be disappointed.

Blondes Are More Fun

This beer brings back many fond memories. Randy and I ventured to France on vacation for 17 days in the year 2000. We were there visiting his family. I already had a taste for fine beer for quite a few years. This beer, Leffe Blonde was everywhere in the south of France. We had countless bottles of this. This is the first time I has seen Leffe for sale in Muncie, Indiana.

If I tasted this not knowing its name I would say it is a little too sweet and too Hefe-like for a Belgium ale. It definitely smells of banana. I have had better. Knowing I am drinking Leffe Blonde puts me back in Montpellier France. Good times.

Why Homebrew?

My start in home brewing began years ago as a young man simply because it was legal to brew at age 18 but legal consumption did not start until the age of 21. I found it odd that it was legal to make but illegal to drink the beverage made by my own hand. That dream turned into an obsession for me over the years as I began to realize the art that is brewing and all its wonders. I started out with the canned kits and slowly graduated to the partial mashes and all grain batches that I do today.

As I started to learn more I slowly added additional equipment to my home brewing arsenal. From wort chillers to auto-siphons and any other cool home brewing gadget I could find. From making my own mash tun from a cooler and parts from Home Depot to building my own stir plate from hard drive parts, a computer fan and a cigar box. Homebrewing brought out the creative side in me in many ways.

I like to think of myself now as an experienced home brewer but there is always so much to learn. I cannot tell you how thankful I am to the home brewing community and friends that have taught me so much over the years. You all have inspired me to try new things and teach others the art. I’ve started blogging about my homebrew experiences ( so that others can learn from my experiences and mistakes.

So I say to all of you with that one question in the back of your mind “should I start home brewing?” I say yes! From learning the craft to sharing your own handcrafted beers with your friends and family there is no better hobby in my opinion. You will learn so much not only about good beer but about yourself. So go to your local homebrew shop today and pick up that beer kit, what are you waiting for?