February 28, 2011

Brewvival 2011

Once again, the fine folks at Charleston Beer Exchange and Coast Brewing put on an intensely enjoyable beer festival. Tons of great people, great food, awesome weather, and awesome beer. Here's a rundown of what I was able to try at this year's Brewvival... photos follow.

Allagash: Avance, Little Big Beer, Bourbon Black
All Good Brands (importer): Urthel Hop It, Bocker Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge
Avery: Joe's Premium Pilsner, Dichos Dactylion
Bell's: Hopslam on cask, Batch 9000
The Bruery: Coton, Trade Winds
Brooklyn: Monster Ale 2007, Blast
Coast: Blackbeard 2010, Rye Not
Foothills: Sexual Chocolate, Sexual Chocolate on cask, Sexual Chocolate 2009, Seeing Double IPA
French Broad: Belgian Stout, Flanders Abbey Ale, Wee Heaviest
Great Divide: Hades, Grand Cru
Heavy Seas: Below Decks on cask
Highland: Dynamite Porter
New Belgium: Tart Lychee
New Holland: Dragon's Milk on cask, Charkoota Rye (light smokiness)
Palmetto: Espresso Porter
Saint Somewhere: Pays du Fleur on cask
Shmaltz: R.I.P.A. Sazerac barrel aged
Sierra Nevada: Bigfoot Barleywine
SweetWater: Happy Ending
Terrapin: Big Sloppy Monster
Thomas Creek: Banana Split Chocolate Stout
12% Imports: Hopfenstark Framboise
Westbrook: Uberbier #3
Cigar City: Hunahpu, Improvisacion O.R.I.B.A. (Oatmeal Rye India Brown Ale)
Founders: Breakfast Stout
21st Amendment/Firestone Walker/Stone: El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale

Notable favorites: Allagash Avance, Avery Dichos Dactylion (sour ale), The Bruery Coton, Brooklyn Monster Ale 2007, Foothills Sexual Chocolate 2009, French Broad Wee Heaviest, Saint Somewhere Pays du Fleur on cask, Thomas Creek Banana Split Chocolate Stout, Westbrook Uberbier #3, Cigar City Improvisacion (oatmeal rye India brown ale), Founders Breakfast Stout

There were only two disappointments: Urthel Hop It and Bell's Hopslam on cask. Hop It seemed flat and didn't have much flavor. Bell's Hopslam is delicious, refreshing, and has a nice hop bite from the bottle; but on cask it seemed watered down and lacking that bold flavor it usually has. Oh well, I came home with two 6-packs of it!

2000 happy beer lovers

Bell's, love them

Allagash Avance, I went back twice for this

Robin and Kristin with Brandon from Charleston Beer Exchange

One of my new favorite brewers, French Broad

Daniel from It's A Fucking Beer, and me

Foothills Seeing Double IPA, yum!

Foothills Sexual Chocolate 2009


The hops weren't green anymore but they still smelled great

When Katie from Thomas Creek hands you a Banana Split Chocolate Stout with ice cream in it, you don't argue.

Great Divide Hades & Hibernation Ale

Westbrook's Uberbier is uberdelicious! But I forgot to go back for a shirt...

21st Amendment/Firestone Walker/Stone "El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale

Daniel from It's A Fucking Beer with Julie from Bruisin Ales

A little taste of home.

February 25, 2011

BEERsimple Beer Week

We got to Asheville on Tuesday afternoon. After checking into Sweet Peas Hostel, we walked up the street to Bruisin Ales for a tasting of Fullsteam beers. Founder and 'Chief Executive Optimist' Sean Wilson was on hand to do the pours. We ran the gamut, starting with Carver Sweet Potato ale, Fullsteam Southern Lager (their flagship beer), Working Man's Lunch (which Sean had us taste along with the moonpies that he brought, nice combination!), Hogwash hickory-smoked porter, and First Frost, a winter warmer brewed with persimmon. My favorites were the Fullsteam Lager and First Frost.

We walked around the city for a while after that, and man what a beautiful place. The big event for the evening was 'Caskageddon' at Barley's Tap Room. We got there early to have a bite to eat before delving into the drinks. The event featured Foothills bourbon barrel aged People's Porter, Mother Earth's Tripel Overhead aged with black pepper and cardamom, Big Boss Brewing's High Roller IPA dry hopped with Chinook hops, Duck Rabbit Milk Stout aged with Escazu chocolate, and Red Beans & Rice from Fullsteam. Red Beans & Rice was really smooth and sessionable and you could pick up just the right amount of each flavor. I found the hop bite of High Roller to be a little much, but I liked the flavor. I wasn't crazy about the Milk Stout with chocolate. Something seemed to be clashing a bit. Tripel Overhead was awesome, but my winner for the night was the People's Porter. Just the right amount of woodiness and alcohol bite to go along with the dark malts and subtle chocolate of the porter.

On an un-beer related note, on Wednesday morning we hit Early Girl Eatery and I had the best shrimp and grits I've ever had.

We walked around the town all day on Wednesday, stopping in shops and cafes, snatching up whatever we could afford and tasting anything we felt needed to be tasted. This included a stop at French Broad Chocolate Lounge for what they called a "liquid truffle".

Later in the afternoon, we stopped at 5 Walnut Wine Bar - yes, wine bar. But here's the deal, first of all, the entire front of the bar had huge open windows, so the bar became more of a patio, and the weather was beautiful, and second, the selection of beer at this wine bar was better than any regular bar back home. And arguably, it was better than some bars that claim to be "beer bars". The list included local beers from Pisgah Brewing, Green Man, Nantahala, Highland, and Catawba, plus bottled craft brews from Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, Founders, Lagunitas, Bell's, Rogue, Avery, Stone, and Allagash. I had the Green Man ESB, which is probably the best ESB I've ever had. Here was the board...

On Wednesday night there was a New Belgium tap takeover at the Thirsty Monk, and I had the Vrienden wild sour ale collaboration with Allagash, brewed with hibiscus flower, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and sauteed endives. They also had Avery Mephistopheles on tap, which I couldn't resist a 4 oz pour of.

We had breakfast again at Early Girl before leaving Asheville on Thursday morning, then headed to Charleston. We headed straight to Charleston Beer Exchange to get some growler fills for the beach house (picked up Grand Teton Persephone imperial pilnser and Grand Teton Coming Home holiday ale). The Persephone is delicious, possibly better than DFH's My Antonia, which I already really love. The highlight of the stop to CBX is finding Bell's Hopslam. Even without Brewvival, I think the trip was already worth it.

Needless to say, I've spent quite a bit of money on beer in the stores in Asheville and Charleston, but I feel it's justified by the fact that I got stuff that I can't get in Maryland. 5 boxes so far, and over $280 spent. Oops.

By the way, even the grocery stores down here carry beer. And not just any beer, I'm talking selections (in the case of Piggly Wiggly) that rival Dawson's shelves, for all you Marylanders. They even have a growler station in the Piggly Wiggly. I love my hometown, but when it comes to beer, I think I live in the wrong state.

February 21, 2011

Beer adventure!

It started as a trip to Charleston, South Carolina for the 2nd annual Brewvival. Then it got complicated. What began as a weekend trip has turned into a week-long beer adventure. Tomorrow, it begins.

I'll head south on 95 and make my way into North Carolina then head west on 40, passing through Durham, Winston-Salem, and Black Mountain before settling in Asheville. On the way, I have the opportunity to stop at Fullsteam Brewing (Durham), Foothills (Winston-Salem), and Pisgah Brewing (Black Mountain). Time is key though, since there is a cask event (known as "Caskageddon", or "The Night of FIVE Casks") at Barley's Taproom in Asheville starting at 7pm and featuring Big Boss High Roller IPA, Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout, Foothills bourbon-barrel People's Porter, Fullsteam Red Beans & Rice, and Mother Earth Tripel Overhead. There is also a Fullsteam tasting at Bruisin Ales from 4-6pm, so theoretically I could skip all the stops and only miss Pisgah. We'll see how it goes.

I'll be in Asheville until Thursday, hopefully meet some new beer friends, see the town, visit French Broad Brewing Company, go to the Thirsty Monk, and otherwise just play it by ear. I'm staying at Sweet Peas Hostel which looks to be within walking distance of tons of cool places.

On Thursday I move on to Greenville, South Carolina and will stop by The Community Tap and visit Thomas Creek Brewery. I'll be there until late in the afternoon and then head to Charleston to settle in for the remainder of the week/weekend. Brewvival is on Saturday from noon til 6pm. I will no doubt stop at Poe's on Sullivan's Island for some good beer and awesome fish tacos. Whatever else happens is up in the air, but I am looking forward to an awesome vacation when all is said and done.

Stay tuned for photos and updates from the road.

February 20, 2011

I Hardcore You

Here's a great Imperial IPA collaboration between Mikkeller (Denmark) and BrewDog (Scotland). It is a blend of Mikkeller's 'I Beat You' and BrewDog's Hardcore IPA. The two are blended and double dry hopped. Pours a thick, hazy coppery orange color with a nice size head. It is citrusy, typical of IPA's, but this one's particularly big on grapefruit in both aroma and flavor. It's got a solid malt backbone though, so your palate doesn't get pummeled with an overly sweet hop flavor (some Imperial IPA's can be way too sweet and unbalanced). Very well balanced, with a slightly woody, nutty character to it as well. I Hardcore You is refreshing and super easy to drink, so watch out because it 9.5% ABV.

I've seen some other reviews where people complained about the price of a bottle in stores ($4-5), and the beer not being worth it. That kind of price is what you'd pay for many "corporate" beers in your average bar. Why pay that for yellow fizz when you get try something that tastes good for about the same price, plus, you drink it at home and not worry about the buzz one bottle might give you. Craft beer drinkers should realize that they're not just paying for the beer but also partially for the two rather noteable names associated with the collaboration. It is also a limited release (not too limited though), although I still see bottles on shelves in some stores). Judging it simply for what it is, beer, it's well worth the price. Go try one!

I Hardcore You

February 12, 2011

Plead the 5th

Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, from Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall, Michigan, has a little bit of everything... except head. It pours pitch black. I couldn't see anything coming through the glass when I held it up to the light. It's thick too. Kinda looks like watered down oil, if that were possible. Heavily roasted malts, some dark fruit sweetness balanced with the usual bitterness of coffee and dark chocolate. There's a little bit of earth, wood, and pine in there too. Velvety mouthfeel with an alcohol bite that doesn't throw the beer out of balance, and a slight prickling on the tongue from the tiny amount of carbonation in the brew. I'm guessing the age is the reason it was so much smoother, tastier, and not nearly as bitter as the first bottle out of the 4-pack I got 9 months ago. I'm glad it comes in 12 oz bottles and not bombers. This is a one and done kind of beer. Rates 100 on ratebeer.com.

February 8, 2011

Black Cannon

A variation on Heavy Seas Loose Cannon using dark malt. Rich, sweet chocolate and coffee flavors, balanced well with the citrus of the hops. Hints of orange and maybe even a little cherry or something else sweet in there. I have always liked Loose Cannon, but now that I've had Black Cannon, I think it's the better of the two. This is a very, very tasty beer. I suggest you grab a 6-pack if you haven't already.

February 4, 2011

Alewife, Hop Rod Rye, ChurchKey, Untappd

Last Saturday I was at Alewife with my friends Trevor and Dong. I had the mussells and a glass of Allagash Black, a medium bodied stout with great roasted malt flavors, a bit of chocolate, and a fruit-like sweetness to it as well. After that I had a glass of Nøgne Ø India Pale Ale. When we were done at Alewife we headed down to Pratt Street Ale House. I wanted a Bishop's Indulgence but they were out, so I had a Bishop's Breakfast instead, still very tasty. For the rest of the night I had cask pours of 3 Lions.

On Monday I crushed a bomber of Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye. God damn delicious. All the hops you could ask for in a seemingly perfectly balanced brew, with the added depth and earthy, spicy flavors of 18% rye malt. The 8% ABV is well hidden. 80 IBU's but super smooth. Good thing I didn't have 2 of these at home, I would've downed the other one right away.

Hop Rod Rye

I met Robin in DC and we went to ChurchKey on Tuesday night specifically to get Bell's HopSlam on cask. It kicked before I got there. Total bummer. Is it wrong to be bummed out when you're sitting in a bar full of awesome beer? Can missing that one beer ruin one evening? Well, it does suck that you can't get Bell's in Maryland, but I got over it really quick with a glass of Founders Double Trouble. Robin started with an Abbaye de St. Bon Chien. We managed to get a table and ordered a brat burger and mac-n-cheese sticks. Next on the beer agenda, a 4oz pour of Mikkeller 1000 IBU and glass of Bell's Two Hearted for me and a 4oz pour of Xbeeriment #44 and glass of Harpoon Winter Warmer for Robin. We made short work of our meal. The evening was topped off with 4oz pours of Brooklyn Monster Ale and Gwiniz Du from Brasserie de Bretagne.

Yesterday I went to Hero's and decided to finally start using Untappd. I checked in a Kona Pipeline Porter and a 3 Lions from Oliver Ales. I earned the 'Newbie' badge. Newbie my ass. I'm going to try and keep up with using Untappd, as long as I have my phone on me. It's actually a great way to keep track of what you drink, plus you can link it to Twitter and Facebook and make all your fellow beer friends jealous.