April 19, 2013

Oyster Stout

For the past six or seven months, I've been obsessed with oyster stouts.

It started with Revival Stout from Port City Brewing. They use local, Chesapeake Bay oysters, steeping the shells in the brewing water to add mineral content, then adding the meat and liquor (the salty fluid inside the shells) to the boil. Then, during a trip to Charleston, SC, I tried Bowens Island Oyster Stout from Holy City Brewing. They claim a bushel is added to every 15 barrels they brew, but no further details were given as to which point(s) during the brewing process the oysters were added. Upon returning home, I focused on a longtime favorite, Pearl Necklace, by Flying Dog. They offer even less details other than Rappahannock River oysters are the variety used. At Brewvival, back in February, Coast Brewing had a keg of their Bulls Bay Oyster Stout, for which the tasty shelled creatures were provided by LocalOysters.com. All of these beers are delicious and brewed using a fresh, local ingredient. They share a slightly silky mouthfeel accompanied by hints of brine in both aroma and flavor, but with varying degrees of malt complexity.

Bowens Island and Bulls Bay were my favorites, but Pearl Necklace was my go-to for a while simply because it is the most readily available one here in Maryland. It's crisp, dry and refreshing, well-balanced, and is only 5.5% ABV, so a few of them won't do too much damage. Aroma is of toasted nuts, salted crackers and faint earth, backed by flavors of caramel, fresh biscuits, lightly salted chocolate, coffee and a tiny bit of licorice. There is also the tiniest bit of smoke in the aftertaste. But then...

Flying Dog Pearl Necklace

...about a month ago, I discovered Marooned on Hog Island from 21st Amendment. This is oyster stout taken to the next level. It's heavy and super creamy. It smells of brine, sea water, dark roasted malt, and then bits of dark cherry and vanilla. The taste includes rich, salted caramel and dark chocolate, raisins and prunes, and coffee that becomes more pronounced as it warms. This is a very complex beer, but deliciously well balanced. The carbonation is very soft, almost as if it were poured from a nitro tap. I highly recommend any of the oyster stouts mentioned here - you will not be disappointed. Cheers!

21st Amendment Marooned on Hog Island

March 1, 2013

Sierra Nevada Estate

Does every beer geek go through a hoppy phase? I know I did. Several years back, pale ale and IPA were my go-to syles. I consumed copious amounts of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, all the while snatching up any imperial or double IPA I could get my hands on. But the day came when I burnt myself out, and slowly started weening myself off the heavy doses of hops. Perhaps a bold move coming from a guy who will answer "Bell's Two Hearted" without hesitation when asked what his favorite beer of all time is. It's not to say I don't drink any hoppy stuff at all anymore. Believe me, the mood still strikes, but nothing has really given new life to my taste for hoppy beers... until now.

Behold! Sierra Nevada Estate!
Sierra Nevada Estate

Estate is brewed using barley and hops grown right at the Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico, California. Two-row pale and caramel malts form a solid base to which Cascade, Chinook and Citra hops are added. The hops are used wet, meaning they're picked from the vines and used within 24 hours, with no drying process. The beer is 6.7% ABV and has 67 IBU. It is super well-balanced, with toast, caramel and a slight nuttiness complimented by orange, grapefruit, and rich floral notes. The body is light and crisp, yet the carbonation is soft and creamy, making it dangerously easy to take large gulps. This beer exudes freshness, which I think more than any other style is the key factor in any pale ale or IPA, but it's what really makes Estate come alive. To be perfectly honest, I don't think there's a pale ale available that's this good. It was just perfect. Unfortunately, it's not something they make all the time, so if you see it, do not miss the chance to enjoy it. Cheers!

January 29, 2013

Happy [Belated] New Year!

It's been a busy fall and winter. I regret that I haven't had the time to do more dedicated posts, but rest assured I have not been slacking in my craft beer consumption. Here's a list of beers I've tried over the past few months. Cheers!

Grand Teton XX Bitch Creek: Twice the malt, twice the hops, and twice the flavor of Grand Teton's regular Bitch Creek. I shared this with my best friend Robin from Good For The Palate over Christmas. This beer made me very happy. It's flavorful, complex, balanced... I don't know what else I could possibly ask for in a beer. One of my all-time favorites.

Cerveja Colorado Indica: Had this last August while I was in Sao Paulo on a work trip. Very smooth and creamy. Less sweet and syrupy than many IPA's, which I prefer. Crisp and refreshing. Floral hop aroma, earthy hop taste. Well balanced.

Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter: Quaffable. Always thought that was a weird word, but it really describes this beer. If you like darker, roastier beers, and you like coffee, this is a great one to have. Very smooth, with a crisp, dry finish.

Great Divide Old Ruffian: I wouldn't call myself a barley wine connoisseur, but I do enjoy them very much. For me they tend to fall into 2 categories, ones you can drink right away and ones that need to be aged. But Old Ruffian, well, this one excels at both!

Founders Backwoods Bastard: Bourbon, scotch, smoke, dark fruit, vanilla and spices. Take your time with this one. It keeps getting better and better.

Lagunitas DayTime IPA: Really glad more breweries are doing lower ABV session-style IPA's. Moderate hop aroma and strong hop bite, but not overpowering. I can usually only do one or two strong IPA's in one sitting before I need to move on to something less hoppy, but this one I could drink a good amount of.

New Belgium Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout: Pretty good, but not as complex as Great Divide's Espresso Oak-aged Yeti or Founders Breakfast Stout.

Cigar City 2011 Sugar Plum: Great holiday beer. Dark fruit and baking spices, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg.

Mikkeller + Three Floyds Boogoop: A "wheat wine", like barley wine but with (surprise!) wheat. Kind of dull. Thought this would more exciting considering the two names involved.

Ballast Point Indra Kunindra: Like someone literally took the sauce from a curry dish and mixed it with a cruddy, watered down stout. Without a decent beer as the backbone, it doesn't stand up to the added spices, though I'm not sure this would have worked even if the base beer were a good one. Not good. Dear Ballast Point - stick to Sculpin.

December 3, 2012


I saw the word LAVA and in the milliseconds that passed before I read the second line, my mind said, "Wouldn't it be cool if this beer were brewed in Iceland? I've never seen a beer from there." I smiled to myself when I read the second line, Product of Iceland. Then I got even more excited when I saw the style - smoked imperial stout.

Located in the fertile lands of south west Iceland, Ölvisholt Brugghús was founded in 2007 by two neighboring farmers with a passion for craft beer. LAVA is an immensely enjoyable beer. Surprisingly, the initial aroma isn't what the style would indicate, but instead is more dark fruit and a hint of red wine. It sort of reminded me of a dark Belgian quad. The flavor delivers the things you would normally expect; bitter dark chocolate, black coffee, roasted nuts and dark malt. The smoke is not overbearing, really more a part of the aftertaste. And thankfully it's not that meaty sort of smokiness that ruins many brewers' attempts at smoked beers. LAVA comes full circle, as that little bit of smoke gives way to rich, sweet, pipe tobacco. The beer is also incredibly smooth and hides its 9.4% ABV very well.

The beer's name is inspired by the active volcano Hekla, from which occasional eruptions can be seen from the brewhouse door on Ölvisholt farm.

Ölvisholt Brugghús LAVA

September 21, 2012


When the weather starts to cool down, I start to crave doppelbock. For years I've relied on Ayinger Celebrator, but this year I decided to try something new - Great Divide's Wolfgang, their newest seasonal offering.

It pours deep brown with clear, ruby red edges. Thick head with big bubbles that don't die off too quickly. Big malty sweetness on the nose and a good bit of toasted billion-grain bread and mixed nuts as well. Taste is also sweet, with lots of caramel and baked brown sugar plus flavors of cherry and plum. Body is velvety smooth, thick and sticky enough to keep your tongue coated from the moment you finish a sip to the moment you take the next one. Finish is kind of earthy and sweet, a marriage of light tobacco and toffee. It's a little sweeter than Celebrator, and also lighter, with less of that "liquid bread" feel, but it's still damn good. Try it!

Great Divide Wolfgang

September 18, 2012

32/50 Kölsch

Do you know what Kölsch is? For starters, it's deceivingly light in color and body but packs way more flavor than you might expect. It's also a bit of a hybrid, made using top fermenting yeast at warmer temperatures like an ale, but still undergoing cold conditioning, or lagering, like a pilsner. Kölsch originates from Köln (Cologne to us gringos) in the Rhineland region of Germany. Foremost in my own mind, it is an under appreciated style, but it's one of the tastiest, most refreshing beers out there. COAST 32/50 Kölsch is a perfect specimen, and in my opinion one-ups traditional ones like Gaffel and Reissdorf in both aromatics and flavor.

Pours deep, pale yellow. Floral hops on the nose along with some hay and grass, bread and a touch of sweetness from the malt. Light bodied with lively but somewhat soft carbonation, almost creamy, so it's very smooth and easy to drink. Taste follows the aroma, with more wheat and dense white bread notes, a bit of lemon, and some honey and white wine towards the end. Just the right amount of hop bitterness balances out the citrus and sweetness.

My favorite part about 32/50 Kölsch is that it's only 4.8% ABV. It makes an excellent session beer and is available year round. Oh, and in case the map on the bottle isn't a dead giveaway, 32/50 refers to the latitudes of Charleston, SC and Köln, Germany. Cheers!

COAST 32-50 Kolsch

August 28, 2012

American Blonde

As I frequently do when picking out new beers, I chose The Perfect Crime AMERICAN BLONDE based on looks. I liked the simplicity of the typewriter font and the tiny female silhouettes scattered across the wallpaper-like background. The side of the bottle read, "Imported by Twelve Percent", which is always a good sign, and the cryptic description included the word collaboration. Other than that, I didn't have any clue about its origins.

Upon returning home, consuming this beer outweighed the need for further research, and so I grabbed a glass, a bottle opener and my camera and got to work. Golden orange in color. The aroma is of fresh white bread and a bit of banana. Flavor starts with light toast and goes right into white grapes and some peach. It has a rich, herbal bitterness and bit of spice. Soft on the palate, not sharp but still very effervescent. Thick, lacy head with great retention.

The Perfect Crime American Blonde

And now for the backstory. Almost a year ago, Brian Strumke of Stillwater posted an update on Facebook simply saying, "the Perfect Crime." Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing and Brian Ewing of Twelve Percent Imports both "liked" the update. AMERICAN BLONDE, along with EUROPEAN BLONDE, are the two beers that have resulted from their collaborative efforts. Perhaps there will be more...?