February 28, 2012

Brewvival 2012

I'm in danger of sounding like a broken record, but I'll say it again anyway... Brewvival is the beer festival to go to. First of all, it takes place in one of the coolest places in the country - Charleston, SC. Plus, all the beer is purchased by the Charleston Beer Exchange, so the breweries are more invested in the event and brew or age batches of stuff you can't often get anywhere else, if at all. I will say, it was more crowded this year. A whole lot more people were in line before the gates opened at noon and once the festival started the number of attendees didn't seem to dwindle. Folks definitely used the entire 6 hours to enjoy themselves. From what I've heard somewhere between 2,000 and 2,200 tickets were sold. But none of that kept me, Robin or our friends from having a good time. Brewvival is all about good beer, good food, and good people, and it delivers all of that consistently. I'm just hoping this is the biggest the festival gets, because the venue (the field next to Coast Brewing) is probably at the maximum crowd it can handle while maintaining a manageable experience.

So here are my favorites this year:

Brooklyn Brewery brought along Local 1, Sorachi Ace and Brewmaster's Reserve "Mary's Maple Porter". Local 1 and Sorachi Ace are top notch (Local 1 was one of my favorite beers of 2011) but the maple porter didn't do it for me.

Evil Twin's Cherry Pop, an imperial stout aged in rum casks with cherries:

Sexual Chocolate from Foothills is a must have. They brought a 2010 and a 2012 batch, and I had the 2010.

Sean Lilly Wilson of Fullsteam was manning a very steampunk looking tap device. The Fullsteam lager is good, but Summer Basil was the highlight here.

Great Divide brought along kegs of Old Ruffian and Petty Theft. Old Ruffian is officially my new favorite barleywine. It isn't overly sweet or as alcohol-forward as many barleywines, but instead has a nice hoppy punch up front. Petty Theft is an interesting sour/wild ale; sweet but with an almost vinegar like kick to it. I didn't like it much on it's own but it'd be great with french fries (beer-centric restaurant and bar owners take note!).

Great Divide also brought along their entire Yeti line to pour from bottles. The Espresso Oak-Aged is my favorite.

When I tried Pays du Soleil and Saison Athene on their own, I wasn't totally convinced, but then I tried the cask of Saint Somewhere's Fierte du Sud and I was very pleased.

If you haven't tried Southern Tier's Pumpking, you're missing out. For Brewvival, they rolled out an oak-aged version that takes the original over the top.

Terrapin aged their tasty Monk's Revenge Belgian-style IPA on cabernet barrels.

Unfortunately there were no banana split stout floats from Thomas Creek this year, but they did randallize Up The Creek Extreme IPA through Sorachi Ace hops!

A cask of Victory Headwaters Pale Ale tries to stay cool.

Stillwater's "Holland Oats", brewed with toasted oats and appelstroop (apple syrup) in collaboration with Emelisse, could have been just a gimmicky name, but it wasn't - the taste is as awesome as the name, if not better!

Tied with the Oak-Aged Pumpking, Old Ruffian and Cherry Pop was Black Note from Bell's, which was a blend of their Double Cream and Expedition stouts aged in bourbon barrels.

See you there next year!

February 24, 2012

The Road to Brewvival

It's become tradition... every year before Brewvival, Robin and I take a week to hit our favorite spots south of Maryland.

We take I-81 South through Virginia and stop off at Due South BBQ in Christiansburg. It's our favorite BBQ place. Get the pulled pork or brisket with sweet brown sauce and a side of fried green tomatoes. They also have the most delicious hushpuppies ever.

For the first day or two we stay in Asheville, NC at Sweet Peas Hostel. We always buy beer from Bruisin' Ales to take home. There are a ton of places to eat, but if you're there for only one night, make sure to go to Cúrate and stop at Thirsty Monk afterwards for some tasty Belgian beer.

This year we added Greenville to our trip so we could visit our friends Daniel of It's A Fucking Beer and Rhett Smith. Dan works at The Community Tap, so we stopped in to see him after having a delicious breakfast at The Bohemian. We left with a growler of Grand Teton Wake Up Call.

That afternoon we headed a little ways out to Pendleton to hang with Rhett, but headed back downtown to meet Dan at Trappe Door for dinner. After that we all went upstairs to Barley's (same owners as Trappe Door) for "dessert", a.k.a. Westbrook Mexican Cake.

On Monday morning Robin and I headed down to Charleston. We relaxed at the beach house for a while before heading to Cypress for an early dinner.

Tuesday was our "big night out". We treated ourselves to delicious food and drinks at Husk Bar and the Husk restaurant right next door. They are separate buildings on the same property. Make sure you have reservations, but arrive early to get drinks at the bar. The bartender will check you in and you can take your drinks with you when your table is ready. Drink-wise, I highly recommend a Fire In The Orchard. As for dinner, the crispy chicken skins are a must, as is the chess pie for dessert. You really can't go wrong with any of it though.

Poe's Tavern on Sullivan's Island is a must for either lunch or dinner.

Our friends Nikki and Justin arrived on Wednesday and the four of us went to Two Boroughs Larder for dinner. I had the Bowl-O-Noodle... no explanation necessary...

After that we headed to Burns Alley for a round and then over to the pre-Prohibition inspired Gin Joint where I had a Gin Gin Mule (Beefeater and ginger beer) and then... a Pappy Van Winkle 20 year. Let me tell you, this is the bourbon to have. I have tried lots of bourbon and it will be hard to have any other kind after having Pappy's.

** If you want to try Pappy's, or if you've already had it and love it and want to have it again, make sure you go to The Gin Joint and not Husk Bar. It's $65 at Husk but only $35 at The Gin Joint for the 20-year. Even $35 may seem like a lot for one small glass of bourbon, but if you're willing to pay the price for this rare spirit you might as well find the best price possible.

Oh yeah, you'll find this on the back of the door of the unisex bathroom at The Gin Joint:

"Drunk Octopus wants to Fight You"

Two more friends, Jeff and Trevor arrived late Wednesday night. On Thursday morning while everyone was still sleeping, Robin and I drove downtown to Glazed doughnut shop and got an assortment for everyone for breakfast. Everything is delicious, but you shouldn't miss this one:

The "Maple Bacon"

So, without going into shit-ton more detail, here are a few more places to visit while in Charleston.

Butcher & Bee - Delicious sandwiches as well as this delightful non-alcoholic beverage...

The Griffon - Our favorite dive in downtown Chucktown

Terrapin Hopsecutioner (courtesy of The Griffon)

Blind Tiger - Another dive, great for lounging outside, but just hope you get good service as it can be shoddy sometimes (we seem to get lucky on weekdays when it's not too crowded)

Goat Sheep Cow - If you like cheese and meat, go here, enough said.
Charleston Beer Exchange - If you like beer, this is the place to go. They're also the co-host of Brewvival, which is the whole reason we come to Charleston every February.

Closed For Business - One of the newest craft beer bars in the area, very cool vibe and decor, great service, great food, and 45 drafts.

Bull Street Gourmet Market - Half gourmet grocery store and half deli, stop in here for tasty stuff for cooking at home or a quick sandwich to go. They've also got a nice selection of craft beer and wine if you're in a "one stop" sort of mood.


February 22, 2012

Ruthless Rye

I love rye beers, and as delicious as they all are, there are some (for whatever reason) I just can't drink loads of in one sitting. Sierra's Ruthless Rye is not like that. This is one of those beers a person could keep stock of at all times. The flavor profile is undoubtedly Sierra. Ruthless Rye is like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with slightly less hops and rye malt added in place of some of the barley. What you get is very tasty, copperish-red colored beer that is refreshing and easy-drinking. Founders Red's Rye P.A. has long been my favorite rye beer (and one of my all time favorites, period) and Ruthless very could could give Red's a run for its money.

Ruthless Rye is one of Sierra's newest beers, and I don't know if it's limited/seasonal or not, so grab some when you see it. You won't be disappointed.

Ruthless Rye

Flying Dog Wildeman Farmhouse IPA

Not too long ago, Flying Dog made a special 25th Anniversary beer for Bierproeflokaal In De Wildeman in Belgium. It was an IPA with Citra hops, fermented with saison yeast. It was very delicious. Flying Dog's new Wildeman Farmhouse IPA uses a slightly different recipe. It's their first new addition to the year-round lineup since Raging Bitch. It is a decidedly different recipe, because I am not as much of a fan of this as I was of the original, which I was fortunate enough to have at a special Flying Dog event at Frisco Tap House in Columbia, MD. The new Wildeman is good, more saison-like than the original, sweeter, and more unbalanced. I characterize the original In De Wildeman ale as being a "bright" IPA, while Wildeman is more saison with extra hops. It's not bad, just too different from the original to impress me.

Wildeman Farmhouse IPA

February 8, 2012

Don't worry, I'm alive.

It's been exactly 3 months since I posted anything. I've been waiting for my camera to be repaired (it's on its way back now) and honestly, I just haven't been drinking nearly as much beer this winter as I normally do. Maybe that's a good thing, or maybe it's not. Whatever the case, once my camera gets here I plan on getting back into the swing of things. In the meantime, here are some of the beers I've been drinking since last we met...

Great Divide Hibernation Ale: My go-to fridge beer (meaning I always have some in stock) for the past few winters. It's very well balanced and has a good amount of alcohol to keep you warm. Figs and raisins, a little nutty, earthy hops, and a touch of spice. Damn tasty.

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale: Lagunitas messed up their batch of their regular holiday beer, Brown Shugga, and so this was the solution. What they came up with is the best IPA I've ever had. First of all, the aroma is incredible. Sticking my nose in the glass was like sticking my nose into a handful of fresh hops. It's super smooth, probably from the oats used, and has a nice spice and breadiness to it, probably from the rye. The combination of the malts also helps adds some complexity that nearly perfectly balances out the citrus and pine from the hops. Like I said, best IPA I've ever had.

Thornbridge Bracia: 'Bracia' is the Celtic name for a drink once brewed in Iron Age Europe using cereal grains and honey. Thornbridge uses dark Chestnut Honey along with a diverse group of malts and hops to produce a delicious beer with flavors of chocolate, light coffee, espresso, and spicy black licorice. This was a bottle of Robin's (Good For The Palate) but I wish now that she had bought two, because this would be a good one to age.

Sixpoint Diesel: Not sure if this is a stout or a black IPA, but I'd say a little bit of both. Less hoppy than most black IPA's and definitely more malty, but thicker, richer, and creamier like a stout. Either way, it's good stuff.

Nøgne Ø Imperial Brown Ale: Chocolate, dark roasted malt, nutty, with a bit of coffee and caramel.

Great Divide Belgian Yeti: Pretty good. Noticeably different from the other Yeti varieties, obviously from the Belgian yeast used, but just didn't quite hit the mark for me when compared to the Espresso Oak Aged Yeti (my favorite of the Yeti series).

Ass Kisser Porter Pounder: Delicious smoked porter. Not over the top with the smoke.

Elysian Bifrost Winter Ale: Not bad. Reminded me a bit of Bell's Winter Ale but with slightly less sweetness and hops.