December 27, 2010

Biére Ambrée Parfumée au Tarry Suchong

Brewed by Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) in Switzerland. This is a medium bodied amber ale brewed with smoked tea leaves. Didn't pick up much from the aroma other than the sweetness. Tastes of lightly burnt tea, sugar, a little honey, just a little smokiness. There was a bit of dirt, grass, and funk in the flavor, with a light sourness that I liked. Interesting twist on an amber ale, though maybe just a tad on the sweet side. Worth checking out though, for sure.

21st Amendment Back In Black

This is a 'black IPA' from 21st Amendment. Black IPA's are typically traditional IPA recipes but brewed with rich, dark malts in place of or in addition lighter malts. Pours a very deep reddish-brown, not quite opaque black, with a generous white head. Roasted malt and coffee on the nose, not bursting with hops. Tastes about the same, dark malt, coffee, a little cocoa, and a hint of orange peel. Nice carbonation, dry finish. Pretty well balanced - a great IPA for winter!

December 9, 2010

Sam Calagione

Last night I attended a private beer tasting / meet and greet with Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, at RFD in Washington, DC. It was a sort of thank you event for the employees and guests of Premium Distributors, who distribute Dogfish Head in DC. Folks started to gather in the 'Back Room' at RFD around 5pm and wasted no time getting things started. The back bar was loaded with Dogfish brews...

In bottles: Chicory Stout, Burton Baton
On tap: 60 Minute IPA, 90 Minute IPA, Midas Touch, World Wide Stout, My Antonia, and Bitches Brew

Here's the tap handle for Bitches Brew (note the inscription on the lower cog - "Analog beer for the digital age")

World Wide Stout and My Antonia were the only two I hadn't previously enjoyed, but I could not resist starting with a Bitches Brew draft, since I've already had it from the bottle and loved it so much. I did have a quick taste of the My Antonia and knew that I would need a full glass later on. I mingled for a bit, talking with one of the guys from Premium and some of the other guests, a mix of bar and liquor store owners and fellow beer nerds. Pretty soon a buffet was laid out and everyone dug in. Sam hadn't arrived yet, held up by traffic. While working on some chicken tenders and a bratwurst, I had a glass of World Wide Stout. Sam arrived around 6:30 or so and gave a quick speech about craft beer, thanked everyone for their support, apologized for not being able to meet the current demand but reflected positively on that point, noting that having 100% of your finished product sold every day is an amazing thing in this economy, even if people are screaming at you for more.

After the speech, one of the guys from Premium introduced me to Sam and we spoke for 10 minutes or so. I told him about BEERsimple and he suggested I email his wife, Mariah, the link because she likes to stay on top of the web stuff. I was wearing a work shirt and he asked what the '513' was for. I explained that I worked for PRS Guitars and that the 513 is a model we make. Sam told me about a guy who wanted a mandolin made out of the same Palo Santo wood that Dogfish used to build the 10,000 gallon wooden tank used to brew their Palo Santo Marron. I told him we do plenty custom work, including mandolins, and that if got us the wood, PRS could definitely build it! I mentioned my penchant for drinking High Life whenever I need something refreshing and very cheap to drink, and Sam laughed but seemed to appreciate my candor. At the end of our conversation he lifted his empty glass, laughed and said he really needed to pee, then put his hand up for a high five. I got a quick photo with him and we parted ways.

I stayed for a little while longer so I could enjoy a full glass of My Antonia, which by the way is a generously hopped imperial pilsner. I've seen the bottles in stores but never picked one up, but now that I've tasted it, I will definitely grab a bottle next time I'm at the store. It may be in my top 10 for this year.

And that, my friends, is how I met Sam Calagione.

November 29, 2010

Alewife

I went to Alewife yesterday before and again after attending the Ravens game. They've got a great selection of 40 draughts and probably twice that many in bottles. They have two huge chalkboards on the walls facing the bar that show their current draught and bottle offerings.

Alewife's draught menu


I started of with a glass of The Bruery's Mischief, a Belgian style strong ale. I love this beer! Yesterday was my first experience and it's already at the top of my favorites list for 2010. Just looking at the clear, golden liquid in my glass made me think "crisp, refreshing, smooth" and I was right. Mischief is complex and very well balanced. There was a little tartness to it almost like white grape juice that I really liked. Notes of pear, a little lemon, and sugar, with a little earthiness, lively carbonation although not too prickly (there's that word again, prickly), and a dry finish. My hope is that it is just as good from the bottle as it is on draught.

After wolfing down Alewife's "Cubano" sandwich, I tried a bottle of Bink Bruin.



The Bink was okay. Poured deep brown with a tan head. Yeasty, 'dirty'/musty aroma and taste, which I liked. Some hints of cinnamon and toffee. Smooth and a little viscous, bitter, easy to drink, but not a ton of character. Interesting, but just didn't do it for me I guess.

After the game I had a Great Divide Fresh Hop draught. Deep golden orange color, very clean look. Lively carbonation, leaves really nice lacing all the way down the glass. Some grassiness from the hops, pine and citrus notes, but not overly pungent. Creamy mouthfeel. A little bit of a bite. More hops and less malt flavor fooled me into thinking this was an IPA, not just an 'American pale ale'. I enjoyed Fresh Hop a lot and could have had 3 or 4 more if I didn't have to go home.

Notes on Alewife itself...

First off, I love the building. I'd been in it before when it was... Lucy's? I think that was it. Anyway, really cool building, tall ceilings, dark woods. Nicely varied selection of beer, 40 draughts and at least twice as many bottles. The food is great, and they even have some nicer menu items you won't see at typical 'beer bars', such as ox tail or rockfish. I really liked my Cubano sandwich, although I would have liked the mustard/pickle spread to have more pickle (or maybe the two could be separate); the crab soup and butternut squash soup are both really delicious. Duck fat is a placebo to some but I did think the duck fat fries were seasoned well and tasted better than the regular ones. The spinach/artichoke dip had big tasty chunks of artichoke but was a tad oily (just needs a little tweak). The shrimp croquettes are good and the mussels are delicious and have a nice chile kick. Not that I come to a beer bar to drink coffee or hot chocolate but I was surprised to hear that they don't serve any hot beverages. Not a problem for me, but could be for some. Service was great; fast; staff are knowledgeable. They'll give you shooter-sized tastes of any draughts before you order a glass. They've got a few big TV's if you like sports and good beer. Could be a little loud in a crowd or with the music cranked up because of the high ceilings, but that doesn't particularly bother me. There were two other beer lovers there at the same time I was; one writing his tasting thoughts in a notebook, and another setting her glass of what I'm pretty sure was Stillwater Cellar Door up by the window to get a nice picture with her small DSLR. The location is easy to get to but isn't near too many other similar places, so it could be considered 'out of the way' by some. Nonetheless, with a little time I think Alewife will become a go-to place for many beer lovers. I'm definitely going again soon.

November 23, 2010

This past weekend

This weekend was a good one for beer.

On Friday I went to my friend Marc's house. He made some really delicious sliders while we each downed a can of 21st Amendment Back In Black IPA. It's deep brown in color, essentially black once poured, and has soft citrus and grassy notes. I've found that canned pales and IPA's are often easy on the palate, lacking the bite the bottled ones have, but in no way is this a bad thing. Back In Black has a light roasted flavor from the malt, and is very smooth through each sip. A little bitter at the end... Once the sliders were ready I cracked open the 750ml bottle of Stillwater Cellar Door, a farmhouse ale brewed with white sage. Hazy golden color with fluffy white head. Smells of earth, grass, a little citrus. Dry body with a refreshing, lively, prickly carbonation (love that word, prickly). Flavors of lemon and orange, with some spice and pepper notes as well. Very well balanced.



For dessert, we headed out to the fire pit and opened up the Schlafly Reserve 2008 barleywine. Smokey, vanilla aroma, with obvious high alcohol content. Thick, viscous, deep rusty brown in color with very little head unless you pour vigorously. Flavors of oak, vanilla, caramel, with a nice nutty aftertaste. Leaves the palate relatively clean, forcing you to go back for more sips!



On Sunday I got together with a whole bunch of friends for our second annual pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving potluck dinner (yes, I meant to say Thanksgiving twice). I started things off with a can of 21st Amendment's Fireside Chat. It sounded interesting, and as expected from 21st Amendment, comes uniquely packaged, but I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting more from this "spiced English ale". It was easy to drink and not over-spiced. However, without the spice I think it would not have had any flavor at all, but the spices present did not seem to be the right ones, or mesh with each other. Oh well. After everyone had finished at least their first plate of food (everyone brought a dish and there were at least 20 people there), I opened up the Saison Rue, a Belgian-style Rye ale with brettanomyces yeast, from The Bruery. Pours a brownish-gold color. Spicy aroma with that lovely rye character (I have been really loving rye beers this year) and a little funk courtesy of 'Brett'. Light citrus taste, notes of dark fruit; a little earthy, and pleasantly sweet. Very rich with a lot of flavors going on. I plan on getting another bottle soon. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I shared this with and toasted to my beer-loving friends; Dong, Robin, Ben, Nikki, Justin, and Kristin.



For dessert I brought a bottle of Great Divide's Espresso Oak-aged Yeti imperial stout. This took care of my desire for both a solid dessert and some sort of coffee-like beverage. Pours black, like black hole black, but with a rich golden brown, bubbly head, looking almost like melted dark chocolate. The stuff barely moved in the glass, and coated the sides almost like cough medicine - very thick. Once poured, immediate smell of dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, coffee, and a little oak from the aging. Big, intense flavors; more dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and of course espresso. Oak and hop flavors are very subtle, almost undetectable. A little alcohol bite. Good for sipping, and great for experiencing the taste opening up as it warms. Pour over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or put some whipped cream in to make a light float. Delicious!

October 21, 2010

Recent (and some not so recent) events

I've had a lot to drink this year... I was happy to find New Belgium Fat Tire at a hotel bar in Anaheim, I found Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale, New Holland Dragon's Milk, Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale, and Founders Double Trouble at Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati while visiting my friend Jason. I enjoyed a rare bottle of De Dochter van de Korenaar Embrasse that I got from Dawson's here at home. My friend Robin brought me back bottles of Avery Seventeen Black Lager, Founders Devil Dancer, Epic Armageddon IPA, and Coronado Idiot IPA from Charleston Beer Exchange for my birthday. Also for my birthday, my brother got me a bottle of Dogfish Head Sah'Tea (delicious!) and a 4-pack of Dogfish Head Midas Touch.

Embrasse


Idiot IPA


Dogfish Head Sah'Tea


I've also come to realize that Michigan is a state very much about beer. I've been out to visit my friend Michelle 5 or 6 times since first meeting her back in May. There are tons of breweries, a ton of brewpubs, and plenty of regular bars with great beer lists. Woodward Avenue Brewers in Ferndale brews a handful of their own, my favorite being the Green Bullet Organic IPA. Woodbridge Pub near downtown Detroit has a huge list of draft and bottled beers. I had several beers there the night we went, but only one I hadn't had before, North Peak Majestic Wheat. After visiting her family in East Lansing, Michelle and I stopped at Beggar's Banquet for lunch. Beggar's has a constantly rotating list of 18 craft beers, and offers flights of 4 of anything on the menu. I introduced Michelle to Stone Russian Imperial Stout there. The best part about Michigan is that two of my favorite brewers are located there, Bell's and Founders, neither of which I can get in Maryland. Bell's Two Hearted Ale is one of my top 5 favorites of this year and would be a regular in my fridge if I could get it here. When hanging out and watching movies at Michelle's house, we'd drink Bell's Amber Ale or Founders Red's RyePA (Michelle's favorite).

I've spent a fair amount of time at my friend Kristin's house lately as well (2 football games and a housewarming party). On hand during those afternoons were Bell's Special Double Cream Stout and Bell's Porter, Avery Samael's Oak-aged ale, Southern Tier Hoppe, Ommegang Cup O' Kyndnes, and Abita Turbo Dog.

Samael's Oak-aged Ale


I recently made my first trip to Churchkey in Washington DC. Robin joined me on this trip. Churchkey have at least 75 beers on tap and hundreds more bottled. I went all draft that night, starting with a glass of Stillwater Cellar Door and a pumpkin beer flight consisting of Southern Tier Pumpking, Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin, and Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin. Cellar Door is a delicious saison style brewed with white sage. Southern Tier Pumpking was very good, like pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust and whipped cream. The Greater Pumpkin, which was on cask, was much more complex than the Great Pumpkin (regular draft), having more pumpkin flavor, a touch of honey, and more alcohol apparent in the taste. After finishing off a charcuterie plate and a cheese plate (with a flight of beer pairings), we moved on to a glass of North Coast Pranqster and a final flight of Monk's Fest, Brooklyn Detonation Ale (tied with Cellar Door as my favorite for the night), and North Coast Red Seal. Churchkey shares space with it's sister restaurant, Birch & Barley. Each have their own menus, Churchkey's being trimmed to pub fare (albeit really fancy pub fare) but a full menu at Birch & Barley. The food at both is delicious. We shared a fig/prosciutto flatbread pizza before heading back to Annapolis.

Last but not least, Baltimore Beer Week... There were hundreds of events and specials going on at various bars starting October 7th and ending with the Inaugural Baltimore Beer Festival in Canton on the 17th. I was happy with the number of events I made it to, especially considering I don't live in Baltimore. I stopped by Pratt Street Ale House on the 7th for the release of Channel Crossing #2, a collaboration between Stillwater Artisinal Ales and Oliver Ales (Pratt St's own resident brewing company). The following night I went to the Wharf Rat for '4 for $5' cask ales. I took the day off on the 11th (a Monday) to meet Brian Strumke from Stillwater at Dawson's Liquors for a tasting, then hopped over to DuClaw for the tapping of a 2006 keg of Devil's Milk. Next was a stop at Perfect Pour, then Oktoberfest/Pumpkin night at Victoria Gastro Pub (I had Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest). On the 14th I met my friend Kristin and her boyfriend Summer (yes, a guy named Summer) at Max's Taphouse for BBWeek specials on Harpoon (only 3 bucks until 9), after which I had a Nøgne Ø Two Captains, an Oskar Blues Old Chub, and Boulder's Never Summer on cask.

But my favorite event of BBWeek, the one I was really looking forward to, the only one I would have gone to if I had to pick, was the 7th Annual Real Ale Festival at Pratt Street Ale House on Saturday the 16th. The festival took place inside, upstairs & down, and outside the ale house. There were over 40 beers available on cask from dozens of brewers. My absolute favorites were My Monkey's Got Wood, High Tea, and Bishops Breakfast with Coffee from Olivers, the 7 Beauties Rye from Brewer's Art, Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA, Oskar Blues dry hopped Dale's Pale Ale, and Dogma from BrewDog.

Winter is coming, and I am fully stocked at my house. Not only do I have a bunch of Stillwater stuff I bought at the tasting plus some other beers I got the same day at the Perfect Pour, but I've still got a bottle of Schlafly Reserve Barleywine 2008, Southern Tier Cuvee, and two bottles of Sierra 30 Fritz & Ken's Ale (Pioneer Stout) from the springtime that I haven't opened yet. I have some catching up to do!

October 20, 2010

Blast from the past

I was organizing photos on my computer yesterday and found a bunch of shots taken with my iPhone back in 2009. I thought I'd lost them when my phone crashed a while back, but I guess I had uploaded them to my computer and forgot about them. These are all awesome beers, with the exception of one, which will stand out, but it's sort of awesome in a different way. It can at least be appreciated for what it is. The Samaranth, Peche Mortel, and Saison all came from Charleston Beer Exchange.

Delirium Tremens (at home)


Allagash Black (at home)


Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboy - The reason this is awesome is because it only cost me a buck-fifty. It's great to have around when you end up thoroughly drunk off of good beer and no longer have the ability to enjoy anything with complex flavors. Super awesome pricing courtesy of Charles Village Pub ("the CVP") in Baltimore.


Green Flash West Coast IPA - One of my favorite IPA's. Loads of hops, not too complex but has a very refreshing, dry finish.


Urthel Samaranth Quadrium Ale (at home) - I need to get this again and remind myself how good it was.


La Biere des Collines Saison (at home) - Another that I really enjoyed and need to get again.


Dieu du Ceil Peche Mortel (at home) - I don't remember this one slaying me, but I don't remember hating it either. Oh well, suppose I'll have to try it again sometime!


Maredsous Brune (Brown) - I took my mom to Brasserie Beck in D.C. for her birthday last year, and although she isn't a beer drinker, she obviously felt obligated to try at least one while we were there. The server suggested this, and I liked it so much I ended up getting one too. It's now one of my favorite foreign beers.

September 11, 2010

Baltimore Beer Week 2010

Hey everyone, Baltimore Beer Week 2010 is now less than a month away, and I hope you're getting as excited as I am. The festivities will begin with the Opening Tap Celebration on Thursday, October 7 from 6-8pm at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Tickets are $30 in advance. There are a ton of events going on, so check out the Events page at bbweek.com for a full list. I am particularly interested in the Dawson's Liquors "Meet the Brewer" from Stillwater Artisinal Ales on Monday, October 11; the 7th Annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival on Saturday, October 16 at Pratt Street Ale House; the Heavy Seas Beer Brunch & Brewery Tour on Sunday, October 17; and the Inaugural Baltimore Beer Festival in Canton, also on October 17.

August 17, 2010

No one's perfect

I've had the pleasure of enjoying what has to be over 150 different beers over the past several years, and that's just a low estimate. There are dozens that I never photographed or even took a note about, and sadly, many of those are lost from memory (although hopefully by chance we'll meet again). In many cases though, I at least snapped a photo on my phone so I'd remember. Here is a collection of different beers I've enjoyed. Put them on your list of beers to try!

I'll start with a recent personal favorite - Bell's Two Hearted Ale. I first had this on cask at Slows BBQ while visiting my girlfriend Michelle in Detroit. I can't get Bell's in Maryland, so I snag something from them almost every time I'm out in Michigan for a visit. Two Hearted is my favorite. On Bell's website, part of Two Hearted's description says "India Pale Ale style well suited for adventurous trips to the Upper Peninsula," and that's funny because this photo was taken at Michelle's family's 4th of July weekend party/pig roast in the Pickford area of "the U.P."



at Brasserie Beck, Washington, DC:
Tripel Karmeliet

Barbãr Winter Brassin

Corsendonk Abbey Pale Ale

Kasteel Donker


at Ale Mary's, Baltimore, MD:
Great Divide St. Bridget's Porter - Couldn't find this on their website, maybe it's discontinued or it was a special batch...? That or I'm blind.

Corsendonk Abbey Brown Ale


at Old Stein Inn, Edgewater, MD:
Paulaner Salvator Dopple Bock - My favorite beer to have at Old Stein, it goes with everything!


at Poe's Tavern - Sullivan's Island, SC:
New Belgium Fat Tire - This is one of my favorite beers of all time, and like many of my favorites, is not available in Maryland. I've had it several times on tap at Poe's, and in bottles when I've been in California for work, and now I hear they're doing cans!


at the 2010 Charleston Brewvival:
De Dochter van de Korenaar L'enfant Terrible - Had a taste of this at the 12 Percent Imports stand at the Brewvival, deliciously funky!


at Buz & Ned's BBQ - Richmond, VA:
J.K.'s Scrumpy Hard Cider - Not a beer, but a very palatable hard cider that went well with the ribs I had for dinner (Buz & Ned's has a very good beer list as well, which includes Chimay and Dogfish among others). Don't knock me for this, I love beer, it's my beverage of choice, but I'm not a snob.


at Tapas Teatro - Baltimore, MD:
Estrella Damm - Nothing special, but it was nice to see a tapas place actually serving a Spanish brew.

June 9, 2010

Finally... Detroit trip

I've had a ton going on recently. Work is busy, I've been out of town a few times, lots of gigs with my band... My beer consumption has been slightly lower than usual. I'm trying to get back on track with my beer adventure and photography. To help me get back on track, I'm finally going to post some of the details (beer related anyway) from my recent trips to Cincinnati and Detroit. My good friend Jason lives in Cincinnati and we try to visit every year or so. While I'm there, we usually take a trip to Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, Ohio. They have a huge selection craft and foreign beers and I always end up picking up a few things for enjoying during the trip, plus when I get home. This trip, I picked up a 4-pack of Dark Horse Brewing's Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, a 4-pack (16 oz cans) of Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale, a six of Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale and a four of Founders Double Trouble Imperial IPA, a 750ml bottle of Ithaca Excelsior alpHalpHa, and bombers of New Holland Brewing Dragon's Milk and Nøgne Saison.

After 5 days in Cincinnati, I headed north to Michigan to visit my new friend Michelle. We met through a mutual friend (who went to high school with Michelle but currently lives in Annapolis) on Facebook. We had struck up a conversation sometime in April then started talking regularly on the phone. After hearing my Cincinnati road trip plans, Michelle suggested I come visit, being only a few hours north. In addition to beer, I have a thing for cute tattooed girls and I couldn't say no. Michelle lives in Ferndale, a suburb of Detroit. I got to her place on Thursday afternoon and we headed straight to Woodward Avenue Brewers, otherwise known as "the WAB". We grabbed dinner and some beers; Michelle had the Raspberry Blonde while I had their all-organic IPA, Green Bullet, which was very hoppy, earthy, yet surprisingly smooth and well-balanced. I had a few more of these a few nights later. On Saturday night we cooked out on the grill and Michelle and I shared the Nøgne Saison and the alpHalpHa.

The Nøgne Saison was very refreshing on that hot afternoon. It doesn't have as much of the funk that other saison style beers do, and instead has a little more hop presence, though I wouldn't call it "hoppy". Aromas of grass, lemon, sour apple. The flavor was subtle, but very smooth, which probably contributed to Michelle's enjoyment, as she'd never had a saison before and may have been turned off by a funkier one. Another great beer from the brewery I can't seem to stay away from... Nøgne.



Next we popped open the Ithaca Excelsior alpHalpHa. Very lively beer. Got a lot of suds just opening it, and it had been sitting on the table for a few minutes. Instant smell of orange, pine, and the Cascade hops. It's a very "dirty" beer, with lots of sediment. Honey is definitely noticeable in the flavor, as well as grapefruit and orange, with a nice bitterness to it but not overly dry. I've never seen this back home in Maryland, so it was nice to be able to try this.



On the last day of my stay in Detroit, Michelle and I headed closer to the city, to Michigan Central Station, a beautiful old abandoned train station, to get some photos. We met some great folks from Canada and ended up sticking with them through our entire journey through MCS, from break-in to escape. Afterwards, the Canadians said they were going to Slows Bar-B-Q for dinner and asked Michelle and I to join them. I'd heard of Slows before, it was featured on one of those Travel Channel or Food Network shows about BBQ. Anyway, we were just excited to get out of the heat, have a beer or two, and eat some great BBQ, but I was even more pleasantly surprised when I saw the beer offerings at Slows:



New Holland, Southern Tier, Mikkeller, Bell's, Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Dogfish, Victory...
I started off with a glass of Bell's 2 Hearted Ale. I can't get Bell's in MD, though I've seen Oberon in DC, but I was able to try a handful of their beers at the Charleston Brewvival back in February. The 2 Hearted Ale was actually from a firkin, also exciting, as it was my first time having a hand pumped beer. I knew the beer would be "warm" but I was surprised how "chilly" it started off, about 55 degrees, maybe a little more. Beautiful golden orange color, soft fluffy head. Well balanced, with tons of flavor, lots of fruit flavors, orange, lemon, pear, grapefruit. Strong hop aroma, pine, grass. Absolutely delicious! My favorite beer of the trip. I need to pick some up next time I see it, which will probably be when I'm in Detroit next Friday to visit Michelle again!

After the 2 Hearted Ale was done, I tried the Mikkeller Single Hop Nelson Sauvin IPA. Pours deep amber with big, bubbly head. Flavor and aroma unlike many IPA's, not the typical orange/pine/grapefruit thing, but more "juicy" and "substantial", like a peach, but with bit of spice to it, like nutmeg. I was having trouble picking out what was going on because the 2 Hearted Ale on an empty stomach left me a little light-headed. Michelle tried a sip though, and she had to have one of her own. I'll definitely find one of these and try it again (thank God something I tried on the trip I can get back home).

May 5, 2010

Stillwater Stateside Saison

I really hate being hit with allergies and then getting a sinus infection on top of it. I haven't been able to breathe normally lately. I can't smell or taste anything the right way either. It makes enjoying a really good beer impossible. So, I haven't been wasting anything. Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be all cleared up and can get back into the swing of things.

On the upside, I forgot that I had snapped some photos of the Stillwater Artisanal Ales Stateside Saison last week. Here they are:



April 25, 2010

Brew Free or Die IPA

This is my second experience with 21st Amendment. Brew Free or Die IPA is unlike any IPA I've had before. Pours a hazy golden-yellow (not deep orange... the photo is a little dark, sorry) with a thick white head. Huge citrus on the nose, grapefruit, pine, apricot, and even a little mango. I was amazed how the "citrus" aromas of this brew were different than so many others of the same type. Prickly carbonation on the tongue, making it very refreshing, but leaving a sticky feeling in the mouth after each sip. It left some nice, thick lacing down the glass. From looking at the can, you'd think this beer would be in your face, at 7% ABV and 70 IBU's. However, this has got to be one of the most subtle IPA's out there. You can't tell that it's 7% at all, and as for the bitterness, it practically isn't there. If you were a real stickler for IPA's, you may consider Brew Free or Die to be "bland", seeing as it doesn't have the kick most IPA's are known for. But, if you enjoy beer as much as I do, you'll enjoy this interesting take on the style.

April 6, 2010

Nøgne Brown Ale

I just can't get enough of Nøgne's beers. They are so delicious! I bought this bottle of Brown Ale from Charleston Beer Exchange back in February, and I'm glad I waited until yesterday to drink it. The evening was warm and Robin and I decided to eat outside. I opened up the Brown Ale to go with the shrimp boil we made.

Nøgne Brown Ale pours a deep, murky brown, with a small amount of sediment, and a generous off-white head. It has a rich, malty, bready, chocolately aroma, and makes you want to take huge gulps before you even have your first taste. Flavors of milk chocolate, roasted nuts, and a little espresso are present, as well as a hint of brown malt, and maybe a little dark fruit. The body is fairly light, but is surprisingly creamy and almost reminds me more of a stout. The carbonation is smooth and not very prickly, but is very refreshing. The hops are not noticeable... it's all about the malt (Maris Otter, wheat, chocolate, brown, amber, and caramel). Brown Ale isn't strong, just 4.5% ABV, so I didn't have any trouble finishing the bomber bottle and unlike Nøgne's #100, I didn't have to worry about the alcohol sneaking up on me.

Once again, a superb brew from Nøgne, which has become one of my favorite brewers. I can't wait to try more from them.

March 30, 2010

Sierra 30

This is exciting. To celebrate their 30th anniversary, Sierra Nevada is releasing 4 beers created in collaboration with craft brewing patriarchs Fritz Maytag, Charlie Papazian, Ken Grossman, Fred Eckhardt, and Jack McAuliffe. The first brew is Fritz & Ken's Pioneers Stout. It should be available now, but I'm not sure exactly how limited these releases are. Chances are you'll want to snatch these up as quickly as possible. The second release comes in May, and is Charlie, Fred, and Ken's Imperial Helles Lager. Next comes Jack & Ken's American Barleywine in July, and finally the Brewers Reserve Oak-aged Ale in October.

Visit the Sierra 30 website for more details!

March 29, 2010

Frankfurt

I just got back from a week in Frankfurt, Germany. I was over there for work, but fortunately had a bit of free time and was able to eat some great food and try some of the local beer. Of all the bars and restaurants I went to, the only major commercial beer I recognized was Beck's. None of the places had anything besides one or two drafts, and though I'm not complaining about not seeing anything American, I did expect to see Chimay somewhere. No big deal though.

I tried 5 different beers while in Frankfurt - Radeberger Pilsner, Schofferhofer Hefeweizen, Binding Romer Pils, Licher Dunkel, and a dark beer from the Czech brewery Krusovice. By the third day, I had decided that Romer Pils was to be my go-to beer for the rest of the trip. The Radeberger Pilsner seemed a little too hoppy and bitter for a pilsner, and didn't really have a lot of flavor after the first few sips. The Schofferhofer Hefeweizen was good but that's more of a summertime beer for me. The Romer Pils was great. It was creamy and well balanced, with a bit of an earthy character to it, but not bitter. The Licher Dunkel was my favorite of everything I tried, but I didn't have it until the last night I was there and didn't get a chance to have it again. The Dunkel had a thick, creamy head, with very slight hints of chocolate and coffee and a light body.



The craziest part of my beer journey in Frankfurt was my attempt to drink 5 liters of Romer Pils in one sitting. We went to a German steakhouse for dinner one night, known not only for the steak that you cook yourself on a fired stone that they bring to your table, but for their rather large portions of beer. Last year, my boss had 1 liter sized glass of beer. This year, we all asked for big beers, and I was making signals with my hands, but the waiter signaled that there was something bigger than the 1 liter glass, so I had him bring me one. It was 5 liters!!! That's 169 ounces, or 14 bottles of beer. In an hour's time, I managed wash down my goulash, fries, salad, and 10 ounces of steak with 4 out of the 5 liters of Romer Pils. That equates to 11 beers in under an hour. I didn't feel a thing until I stood up to leave, at which point I almost fell over. Now, just to be clear, I normally go for quality, not quantity, and I certainly do not condone binge drinking or anything stupid like that.

This was simply a unique experience, and if one is to conquer such a large portion of beer, it must be done quickly in order to have any hope of fitting it all in and not getting sick. I think the reason I didn't get sick is because of all the food I ate, and although I may have been able to finish all the beer if I didn't eat, I surely would have been sick. So, for someone of my size, I think 4 liters in under an hour is quite a feat. (I'm hoping the next time I'm in Europe it's on my own time so I can better document my travels and take more pictures. All I had with me this time was my iPhone.)

March 16, 2010

Raging Bitch

The name of this awesome beer from Flying Dog was more than enough reason just to pick up a 6-pack of the stuff. I waited until my last bottle to take photos and write a review. I had fun going through this 6-pack. I drank each one a week apart. At least 4 out of the 6 times, I was around someone I hadn't been around while drinking the previous bottle, so it made for some interesting conversation. They typically went something like this... "Hey (dude, Chris, babe, etc), what are you drinking?" - "Raging BITCH!" That's about it. They were fun conversations for me. Not only do I love beer, but I love the word bitch. 'B' may actually be my favorite letter just because of how powerfully you can pronounce it. Try it yourself... Raging BITCH. Accent the Bitch, it's fun...

Pours a rich amber/orange, crisp and clear with a thick white head. Pine, honey, some grapefruit. Great hop flavor, bitter, but without the bite.

A few words on "Belgian-style India Pale Ale". I don't think Belgian when I think IPA, and vice versa. And while IPA's certainly didn't originate in America, it definitely something American brewers are famous for, if not simply having a knack for. So it puzzles me that the name "Belgian-style IPA" basically describes a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. However, there's a bready yeastiness in Raging Bitch that is not part of the typical American IPA, so the name is justified, even if it is a misplaced way of saying that you're drinking an IPA with Belgian yeast. Anyway, the best part of Raging Bitch is the smooth, mossy, earthy flavor. I drank my last one outside today while taking pictures of moss and fungus growing in my back yard (P.S. there were some really crazy colors so I'll post those in case anyone's interested). I could smell the hops from a few feet away. Delicious.

February 19, 2010

Nøgne #100

This, my friends, is one delicious beer...

Batch 100 started out as a celebratory brew for the brewers at the Norwegian brewery Nøgne, but word leaked and pretty soon there was enough demand that they started producing it commercially.

It pours a deep, rusty brown with a thin off-white head. It has a sweet and slightly earthy aroma, with some subtle chocolate and nutty notes. With 80 IBU's, it's bitter, and while you can taste the hops, they're more restrained and don't have the bite of an IPA. There is a great combination of flavors in here - some vanilla, dark fruit, coffee... but the most interesting, and hence my favorites, are grapefruit and gingerbread. As soon as I caught the gingerbread, I had to run to the kitchen to grab one of Robin's homemade molten chocolate gingerbread cookies that I was lucky enough to have not finished. Man, that was a tasty combo. The finish is dry but not too much, and although it's 10% ABV, the alcohol is extremely well hidden.

One might think I'm not picky when it comes to beer, but that's just because I don't usually post the beers I don't like (such as Equinoxe du Printemps). I want whoever reads what I think to get excited about trying something new, not discouraged. I do enjoy almost every beer I try, and Nøgne #100 is one that I really, REALLY enjoyed, and plan to again.

February 10, 2010

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12

From Harviestoun Brewery in Scotland, Ola Dubh literally translates to "Black Oil". It is aged in whiskey casks from Highland Park Distillery used to age their 12-year whiskey, and comes in individually numbered bottles (mine was #13122 from September 2007). There are also Special Reserve 16 and 30 varieties, aged in the barrels used for the corresponding whiskey. The 12 pours pitch black (as I'm sure they all do), with some patches of carbonation but not a full head. The aroma is of rich, dark roasted malts, with some sweetness and hint of fruit. Smooth and viscous in texture, with a light/medium body. It's not as heavy as one would expect. There are a lot of flavors going on, all of which increase as the beer warms, but they never overpower. It's very well balanced... coffee, chocolate, a little vanilla, salty nuts, plus the peat and smoke imparted from the whiskey casks. The finish is incredibly clean and dry, with only a little bitterness. I enjoyed drinking the beer, but finished it pretty quickly. It didn't do a whole lot for me, but was worth a try.

By the way, the answers are yes... the floor is crooked, and that is snow coming in the porch door.

February 9, 2010

Stocked up

It's been a very snowy winter here in Annapolis... a couple feet here, a dusting there, another however many inches, another dusting, and just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, we get hit with enough snow to cripple us for 4 days (26 and a half inches) but not enough to qualify for federal aid. Apparently you need 28 inches for that. Maybe we should have had an earthquake instead... (too soon?) Tonight, we're supposed to get another "10-20 inches of accumulation, depending on where you're located." That means we'll probably get the full 20, and this stuff isn't just accumulating, it's piling up, and we're running out of places to put it.

Lucky for me, I'm all stocked up.
Front row, left to right: North Coast Brother Thelonious, Maredsous "8" (Brune), Flying Dog Raging Bitch, Aktienbrauerei Steingadener Dunkle Weizen, Saison Dupont
Back row, left to right: Nøgne #100, National Bohemian, Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12, Guinness Extra Stout, Unibroue Trois Pistoles