Posts tagged ‘Craft Beer’

Beer for Boobs Brunch

Beer for Boobs Brunch

Join the Ladies of Craft Beer for this mix and mingle event open to all people who support the growing population of amazing women that love craft beer.  This group is about creating a comfortable forum where people are encouraged to bring women into the craft beer world.

Freshcraft is a brand new restaurant in Denver focusing on amazing craft beer and thoughtfully prepared food.  They have graciously agreed to host our event and we are so excited!
Price includes food and several selections of discounted pints.  Over 50% of the proceeds will benefit a major breast cancer awarness charity in Denver.
This event is being held four blocks away from the Great American Beer Festival, as well as four blocks away from the Pints for Prostates Rare Beer Tasting.

Tickets for this event can be purchased here.

Current list of attendees:

Stevie Caldarola, founder of Ladies of Craft Beer

Taylor Shaw

Suzanne Schalow & Kate Baker

Maureen Basenburg

Sebbie Buhler of Rogue Ales

Laurie Delk

Angela ArpKim Kavulak of Nebraska Brewing Company

Elizabeth Dougherty

Carol Farrar

Meredith Klinger

Rochelle Mills

Jennifer O’Connell

Michelle Sievwright

Melanie Strachan

And the boys…

Lee Norman Williams

Stephen Johnson & John Holzer of New Brew Thursday

Dr. Bill Sysak of Master Pairings

Tyson Arp & Paul Kavulak of Nebraska Brewing Company

Ed Cox

John Chetbundit

Eric Farrar

Robert French

John Gideon

And…

You?

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Homebrew Adventure, Day #17 – Mikkeller’s Yeast Series Study

Ok- so, this is actually getting posted a bit out of sequence, but I did sample and review these 5 samples from Mikkeller Yeast Series on Day #17 of my homebrew adventure.

I think what Mikkel Borg Bjergsø is doing for the beer community is unparalleled right now in educational value.  Having these “Single Hop“, “Yeast” and even the Black Hole “Barrel” series have been essential to my education as a beer drinker and will give me a leg up for home brewing.

Here are my reviews of five of the yeast series beers, brewed with the same base single malt, single hop beer.

Yeasties!

Yeasties!

1. American-Style:

Nose: Slight pepper

Taste: Dirty grapefruity citrus and a bitter after taste show that this yeast compliments the hop and definitely allows more of the hop flavor through.

2. Lager

Nose:

Blogger’s Note: Honestly- I had nothing here on the nose.  It was a void to me.

Taste: More of a lean towards a malty flavor than the American-Style, this beer has a sweet start and a roasted finish.  It is refreshing and not overpowering.

3. Hefeweizen

Nose: Sweet corn, slight mesquite

Taste: In one word, it is Summer- light just like a witbier with the tang of natural orange cleaner.

4. Brettanomyces

Nose: Cherry Twizzlers, Red licorice shoe-strings

Taste: “FUNK-AY”  This beer is a very drinkable sour with fruity tones.  I called it fermented cranberry apple goodness, as well as my favorite of the bunch.

5. Belgian-Ale

Nose: Banana undertones, spice

Taste: Sweet and spicy deliciously ride on a wave of thick banana funk, proving that yeast really can make a all the difference.

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Honestly, the difference between all of these brews was astonishing to me.  I assumed there would be slight differences, as I know that each style has different characteristics.  But the blatant, screaming differences created a shock and awe campaign upon my tongue- rendering my palate sated but tired.

If you are new to the brewing (or even tasting) scene, I strongly suggest that you invest in this journey as I did.  The rewards are well worth it (as are the bragging rights!)

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Homebrew Adventure Day#29 – An Interview with Shane Welch of Sixpoint Craft Ales

Shane of Sixpoint Craft Ales

Shane of Sixpoint Craft Ales

Photo Courtesy of The Full Pint

New York (specifically Red Hook, Brooklyn) is lucky enough to house Sixpoint Craft Ales, a brewery with a full line of interesting and tasty craft beer output.

Shane Welch is brewmaster, founder, president, and owner of Sixpoint and was nice enough to answer some questions that I have come up with in order to gather information to hopefully help me in my homebrew journey.  Check out this amazing glimpse into the mind of a master brewer:

1. What was your first beer experience?

Oh man…I think I may have had the earliest start of any craft brewer….you see, I have been drinking beer ever since I was 2 years old. Back in the early 80s my father used to drink Meister Brau. Here’s a little walk down memory lane.

Anyway, my father would sometimes leave a little bit of beer left in his ceramic stein, and after he had fallen asleep, I would grab the oversized stein with my two little hands and hoist that thing up over my head and chug the rest. Crazy thing is I remember enjoying the taste of beer ever since I was a kid. Something magical about the sweetness of the malt and spiciness and bitterness of the hops. My parents were shocked – and amused – by the entire ordeal so they took a photo of me. I’ll try to track it down and send it to you.

2. What/who inspired you to start brewing?

Its literature, language, art and poetry that is my weakness. Therefore, it was the indelible and captivating “The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing” by Charlie Papazian and its zany humor, hand-drawn images, and do-it-yourself vibe that had me hooked. Keep in mind that in college, I was a hippie nerd, so the combination of science, chemistry, and making your own beer was right up my alley. Combine that with a fun, informative style and approach, and I was hooked.

3. What is your favorite beer to brew and why? What is your favorite beer to drink (both your own creations and from other breweries as well) and why?

My favorite beer to brew is homebrew. The reason why is because the scale is so much smaller (5-10 gallons versus the typical 500 gallons in Red Hook, Brooklyn) you’re that much more up-close-and-personal with the beer. Everything is smaller – the amount of grain, water, and hops – the size of the kettles, fermenters, etc. And your yield is lower too – so every bottle is precious. I like that feeling of cranking out a small, custom batch…nothing tops it!

Favorite beer from our brewery to drink? That’s really hard because it literally changes every week or month. But recently the Bengali Tiger has been tasting the best it has ever tasted. But, if you would have asked me two months ago, I would have said the Righteous Ale.

As far as beer from other breweries go….oh man, there are SO MANY to drink, and so many good beers. What a great industry. We’re surrounded by all of these amazing colleagues (who in theory, are our competitors too) but they make such great products you just can’t refuse them. For some reason lately I have been obsessed with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. There has been anywhere from one to twelve bottles of it in my refrigerator at all times in the past 3 months. It hits the spot every time!

4. What is your favorite beer event to attend, and why?

Best feel-good event that represents what the craft brewing industry is all about? Without a doubt, the Great Taste of the Midwest.

Best up-and-coming beer event to showcase the creative and renegade side of craft beer? Without a doubt – the Extreme Beer Fest put on by Beer Advocate.

Best global revelry and largest beer party in the world? Hands down – Oktoberfest in Munich. No one even comes close.

5. Have you taken any courses for brewing or beer tasting? What are your thoughts on courses for brewing and tasting- are they helpful or unneccessary?

Although I have no formal courses taken in beer brewing, I am BJCP certified and have extensive chemistry and physics background at UW-Madison, and I was also a math major. Without this solid foundation of knowledge and education, some of the brewing processes would be hard to grasp. However, I do want to emphasize my core competencies rest in the more theoretic fields – and that is why I loved chemistry so much – but people like David Liatti (our Operations Manager) is the more practical engineer.

As far as beer courses for brewing and tasting – they are not necessary, but a knowledge of science and the components of beer are necessary. In other words, you don’t need to go the academic route, but you must have a basic understanding of the causal relationships that take place during the brewing process, for that is how you troubleshoot and problem solve when issues arise. The more advanced your knowledge base is, the better your troubleshooting skills will be.

Sixpoint Craft Ales

6. What advice do you have for homebrewers looking to get into the professional field of brewing?

Homebrew your ass off, pound the pavement, press the flesh, and keep the faith.

7. Do you still homebrew? If so, what are you currently brewing or what was your latest creation?

I do homebrew. But I’ve become a bit of a recluse with it sometimes because I like a clean, sterile, and quiet environment without distractions when I homebrew. Its really meditative for me. I can’t stand a soiled or dirty environment, or one where someone is interrupting me every few minutes. I like to immerse myself in the beer. Figuratively, of course. :-)

I’ve also been teaching people how to homebrew lately. A few weeks back, I taught my good friend and executive chef at Prime Meats/Frankies Spuntino Willy Prunty how to make some beer. His knowledge base was already super solid, but we took it to another level. Its a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
8. What has been your hardest challenge with the creation and continued success of Sixpoint? What has been your greatest success/ defining moment with the creation and continued success of Sixpoint?

The creation side has been rather easy…as the creative juices and spirit has always flowed freely with me. Regarding “continued success” I would say that is a subjective critique! But thanks for thinking so. But we have a long way to go…and that is where the struggle comes in. I’d like to see us making better beer, with stronger ties to our community and customers, and better customer service. I also would like better communication within the company…tighter controls…more efficiency. So many things to do! That is the key…to never get lazy or content. Stay fit! :-)

Greatest success or defining moment? I’d like to thing the chapter on that has not yet been written! But I’d have to say – above all else – is the innumerable amazing relationship I’ve been able to forge as a result of starting Sixpoint. I’ve met so many helpful, thoughtful, kind, talented, fun, and appreciative people through this business…I’m eternally grateful. I feel blessed.

Sixpoint Brews

Sixpoint Brews

9. Tell us your most fun beer story.

Before I started the brewery, I was living on my friend Aaron’s couch for a few months while I homebrewed every single day. I had turned his kitchen into a bona fide mini brewery. He lived on the second floor of a two-unit flat. On the ground floor was a dude named Pat, who was a 40 year-old “retired poet” who was very idiosyncratic. Anyways, he apparently had moved in several months before but still had his stuff packed in boxes.

I started brewing and one day there was a knock at the door. It’s Pat. He said, “what are you doing up here? Its smells like you’re making candy.” I said, “Don’t worry. Just making beer. That’s the malt – it smells sweet.” Pat then replies, “Uh……ok. It sounds dangerous…..” I said, “Nah…I’ve done it hundreds of times. Its easy.”

Flash forward a few days, and I’m making a batch of American Amber on the stovetop. Then, I get a phone call. The reception is poor, so I go out onto the balcony. I’m talking to my friend, and then I hear a knocking at the door – its Pat! Uh-oh. Apparently there is a RIVER OF BEER coming through the ceiling and dripping onto his book in the living room.

I rush to the kitchen to find out I had a boil over. Shit! Yep, it ran down the side of the kettle, and all over the stove, and then down the gas line through the linoleum floor. It goes through the floor and comes out the ceiling below and is streaming all over Pat’s books, still freshly packed in cardboard boxes. What a sight….a river of hot brown beer coming through the ceiling!

Just like Poltergeist. Haha.

10. What is your take on the craft beer community? What is your favorite thing about it? What could stand for some improvement?

The craft beer community is awesome, and it is probably my single favorite thing about the entire industry. Interestingly, its not just the community of brewers….not even close. Its the community of craft beer drinkers, craft beer bar owners, craft beer writers, craft beer bloggers, craft beer distributors, and craft beer website owners. Its a gigantic and ever expanding craft beer universe! :-)

My favorite thing about it is it is so different from other industries….like take, for example, Wall Street. There is less of a “every man for himself” and “dog eat dog” mentality and more of a mentality of “a rising tide lifts all boats” and cooperation.

As far as improving the industry…I would say there could possibly be some regional centers within the Brewer’s Association…since the country is so large. I think every major city should have a craft beer week…and it would be nice to get some sponsorship and support from an organized source. If the Brewer’s Association really threw their weight behind a coordinated effort to get all 50 states rocking craft beer, the sky is the limit! :-)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shane has that refreshing a relate-able style that we see with a lot of brewmasters, and that is what I love so much about this industry.  There is competition, for sure, but brewers are constantly encouraging others to join in the game and get to brewing- the passion is everywhere, and it certainly is contagious.

With that, I say to you, go out there and talk to your local brewers.  Hopefully, (and I have a hunch they will be,) they’ll be as insightful, smart, experienced and willing to chat as Shane was.

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Cider- the “New” Artisan Beverage Superstar- An Interview with Joe Heron of Crispin Cider

The Crispin Tap Handle

The Crispin Tap Handle

As a part of my research for becoming a homebrewing genius, I decided to send out interview questions to people behind my favorite breweries- hoping their answers would give me insight into the world of brewing and tips for how to avoid impending disaster.

Included in this list was a man named Joe Heron- Founder and CEO of Crispin Cider.  While cider may not be craft beer, it IS an artisan beverage that I tend to enjoy.  I had the pleasure of trying a bunch of Crispin wares (as well as ciders from Fox Barrel, another cider company that Joe runs) and I’ve been hooked ever since.

The following is a cut and paste insert of Joe’s answers to my questions about Cider and the beverage industry in general.  Cheers!

1. What was your first cider experience?

Probably as a teenager in South Africa. Cider then, was what you drank if you didn’t like the taste of alcohol too much. And even then it was pretty much a “sweet-beer”, for people who didn’t like beer. South Africa has changed a lot since then with some fine ciders coming out of that country.

2. What inspired you to get into making cider?

The “dirty little secret” is this; I did not enjoy cider very much when Lesley & I started Crispin. So my involvement initially was purely entrepreneurial. Cider as a category was exploding worldwide. The cider over ice phenomenon had not yet hit the US in a meaningful way, and it is pretty common knowledge that much of the beer industry turns on a serving ritual (Corona with a lime, Blue Moon & an orange slice, Stella Artois’ focus on it’s Belgian chalice) so that was interesting. It was apparent that that market trajectory was not shared yet in the US. We also looked at data that showed that cider represented less than 1% of the US beer market, Vs +/-5% in most countries around the world, in the UK & Ireland it is around 15% (and growing rapidly) – so the commercial runway seemed very long. In our opinion the cider category had stagnated innovation, taste-profile and image wise. Ciders being mainly positioned as beer-alternatives for people who didn’t really like beer – rather than a standalone proud refreshment option. A little old-fashioned in imagery. That most large cider brands available were made using apple-wine fermented from apple-juice concentrate seemed totally contrary to cider integrity. We set out to make ciders that we would enjoy – dryer, a little more sophisticated. Ciders that would attract cider & NON-cider drinkers. Cider made with fresh pressed apple juice.

3. What is your favorite cider to brew and why? What is your favorite cider to drink (both your own creations and from other cideries as well) and why?

I don’t have any “favorite children”. But ….. our Artisanal Reserve unfiltered cloudy ciders are very boundary breaking. They are challenging to make in terms of mastering alternative ale yeasts, smoothing with natural sugars, and then maintaining product integrity with unfiltered apple-wine sediment/lees left in the bottle. These are truly “American” ciders. I find Crispin Original on draught sublime – full & rounded without being sweet, refreshing enough to drink a few. I love Crispin Honey Crisp, especially with food. Fox Barrel Pear is the easiest cider to drink in the world, in my humble opinion. Truthfully I like all our ciders at different times. We also do very, very small Limited Editions, usually ciders aged in wooden barrels that we are very proud of. Bonnie & Clyde is just great conceptually (true love can be dangerous) and intrinsically (heirloom apple-wine aged in Chardonnay barrels). We have many more coming out, some quite soon.

I like Farnum Hill a lot. I think Doc’s is very good too. Eve’s Cidery “champagne” ciders are lovely.

Final point – cider is not beer, and it is not “cider-beer”. Cider at it’s truest form is apple-wine. Cider is vinted like grape-wine in a cidery, an “applewinery” not a brewery. Cider is not “brewed”. And cider is alcoholic, everything else is apple-juice.

4. What is your favorite beverage event to attend, and why?

I really prefer events in good bars Vs giant beer-fests. I love talking to the bar owners, bar-tenders, and patrons on a personal level. There is a unique face and personality to every bar. The Firkin Fest at The Happy Gnome in St Paul is great, we have had Bonnie & Clyde events at Papago in Phoenix, Beer Bistro in Chicago, Matt Torrey’s in Brooklyn, to name a few. Max’s in Baltimore is a great bar who hosted us alongside Victory & Harpoon during American Craft Beer Week. I am really looking forward to some events in Rattle & Hum & The Blind Tiger, amongst others in NYC. Cider dinners pairing our ciders with appropriate food styles is enormous fun. We hosted a “Ciders & Sliders” dinner a short while ago – where all our ciders were paired with 6 slider “burger” courses from appetizer through dessert. Brilliant, delicious, fun.

5. What upcoming new cider styles should we look out for?

I think the first thing that is going to happen is a flood of standard, typical ciders coming to the market to try and gain a foothold in a fast-growing, yet undeveloped market. Fruit ciders, in particular Pear, will also gain currency as a more natural, tradeup, easy to drink refreshment option. At this moment in time Crispin is the only cider company really stretching the boundaries of cider styles. We work with novel yeasts, natural sugar sources, and barrel aging all the time. This is what makes us feel alive, and what makes us come alive.

Honey Crisp

Honey Crisp Cider

6. Do you like craft beer? If so, what’s your favorite craft beer and why?

Yes.

Yes.

Yes. I think Victory Prima Pils is a work of art. I think people underestimate how hard it is to make an exceptional Pilsner. There is no place to hide in terms of malt, hops and ABV. Mike Lundell’s limited release India Style Rye Ale, part of St Paul’s Summit Brewing’s Unchained Series – is inspired. Truthfully I am a bit of a wuss with some of the more aggressive craft styles, I lose my ability to talk after more than one West Coast IPA – my tongue seems to become paralyzed. I need a knife and fork to drink some of Sam’s Dogfish Head beers.

7. Do you think there is an easy cross-over from craft beer drinkers to cider lovers? Which cross-over is easier: craft beer to cider or craft beer to wine?

Absolutely. There is a cross-over. Craft beer drinkers are open-minded imbibers. However craft beer drinkers are discerning and demanding. The selection is vast, and the drinker is promiscuous. The rational data shows that craft beer drinkers are twice as likely to drink cider as the general beer population. I believe that craft-beer drinkers drink craft beer instead of wine in the main, especially the core consumer. I think that cider is more part of a craft beer drinker’s repertoire than wine is.

8. What has been your hardest challenge with the creation and continued success of Crispin? What has been your greatest success/ defining moment with the creation and continued success of Crispin?

Ok. The greatest challenge we face is the category itself. It’s perception of being sweet-beer than can give you heartburn. The fact that we, as a start-up cider company, have to do most of the category heavy lifting to help elevate cider is also challenging. We also have a problem with developing cider evangelists. Perhaps this has been because there was nothing to evangelize about. But the craft beer universe is being built on the momentum of people who like beer, on the brewer as “rock-star” cult status, and a sheer open-minded embrace of experimentation and enjoyment. The cider-geek is a conservative ubertraditionalist to the point of Talibanesque dogma. A dogma that has resulted in American’s drinking more non-alcoholic beer than cider.

We at Crispin are far more inspired by Jim Koch, Ken Grossman, Greg Koch, Sam Calgione, Mark Stutrud & Bill Covaleski, than anyone in the cider fraternity. (To call the cider industry fraternal might be moot). We have no one of their stature in our industry.

Then, like every small company in this industry, distribution is challenging. Some distributors can really hurt you through indifference to the point of obstruction. We are fortunate to have a lot truly exceptional wholesalers, who are great people, and love us and our products – they are far the majority. The minority – some of whom are very large, are our biggest commercial challenge. That the Great American Beer Festival excludes cider might be an indication of how low in esteem the category is held in America.

Our greatest success has been the embrace of all our products by consumers and customers in 24 states and counting. I do believe that the launch of our Artisanal unfiltered Reserves started to define our creative personality, which led to the Limited Releases. In the industry, our acquisition of the Fox Barrel Cider Company and the cidery gave us the stature and credentials to be taken seriously.

We are not a company short of self-confidence, but we owe a few wholesalers our self-belief. Without them things would be very different.

We have a pocket full of Crispinite. It’s powerful stuff.

9. Tell us your most fun cider story.

The most fun I have in cider is having someone say. “I’m not really a ciderdrinker” – so 99% of beer drinkers, and then they go “wow that’s really good, different, delicious not sweet, I’ll have a little more, mmm, ok give me a glass”.

The Saint - Brewed with Belgian Yeast and Maple Syrup

The Saint - Brewed with Belgian Yeast and Maple Syrup

10. What is your take on the craft beverage community (beer, wine, alcohol, cider, mead, etc.)? What is your favorite thing about it? What could stand for some improvement?

Without getting in to multiple cliché’s-I love the sheer exuberance and confidence of the craft beer industry. I honestly think it illustrates everything great about America. It illustrates the values, attitudes and spirit that, through these trying times, the USA will end up being okay.

I am envious of the camaraderie in the craft beer fraternity, from the brewer side to the consumer side. People are supportive and embrace a collaborative, creative ethos that combined with competitive spirit is driving the growth of the category overall. We make the best beer in the world. I would challenge any one to counter that argument. (We also make the best cider in the world now.)

I am not informed enough about Mead to comment. But I am intrigued.

I love wine. And my personal tips are South African Chenin-Blanc, Australian Dry Riesling, Gimblett Gravells – New Zealand Syrah, Grenache/Garnacha from anywhere.

I am very interested in artisanal spirits. This is nascent in market development terms, but there is some cool stuff happening, often from craft brewers. I would love to develop something in this space. Frankly I think the relationship between craft beer drinkers and craft distilled spirits may be closer than craft beer is to wine.

I think the biggest challenge the craft beer industry faces is the sheer promiscuity of the core consumer. The consumer is faced with such a barrage of (interesting) alternatives in flavors, formats and from excellent breweries, that consumer loyalty is possibly dead. I find the domination of seasonal varieties alarming – when Seasonals are the top sellers the head is starting to eat the tail. IMHO.

I am not a craft-brewer. And my status is such that my opinion carries little weight. From my individual seat and opinion, I wonder which is more important to craft brewers now – complexity Vs refreshment, and I wonder how the consumer feels about this? And how many IPA’s can possibly be sustained?

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He Said/She Said #3- A Study on IPAs

Jai Alai

Holy 70s, Batman!

That’s right, Ladies and Germs!  It’s time for another installment of He Said/She Said, brought to you by the lovely folks at Hoptopia and BasicallyRed.  Tonight we have a treat for all you hopheads out there- a study of India Pale Ales.  Can ya dig it?  ‘Cause I know I can…

First, we start out with Cigar City Brewing Company’s Jai Alai India Pale Ale.  I hate to break foul on one of my fav breweries, but I just wasn’t digging on this brew when it came to aroma, despite its bitchin’ 70s style threads.  I got a musty odor, while Lee smelt salty seaside air, yellow grapefruit, and a not as spectacular as hoped hop.

Once we got to the taste, however, everything turned copasetic.  Very citrusy yellow fruit and a little fat (think Pam cooking spray, not butter) jumped out at Lee, while the brew tasted very clean and not drastically different from start to finish.  I, on the other hand, liked the IPA best at a colder temperature; first the beer is sweeter and then the hops come out as you hold it to warm it up.  Cigar City packed lots of flavor into this brew but also kept it quite refreshing none-the-less.  The hops and citrus profiles shine through, leaving not much room for anything else.  Big shout out to my buddy Phil from DosBeerigos for passing along a dang fresh supply of Jai Alai to make this all possible.

Surly Abrasive Double IPA

The only thing abrasive about this beer is me once I've run out of it...

“Beer for a glass from a can.”  You got that right, Surly Brewing Co!  My first thought, literally, when sniffing this brew was “whoa!”  With an aroma of bok choi/chow fun and old, musty, dusty pine satchel, Abrasive smells as if it was aged in pine barrels.  Lee was convinced he smelled aluminum on the beer, but I wasn’t so sure.  Jimica, red licorice and haslet (come on folks, give him a break… he’s British!) rounded out the nose for Lee.

The taste brought about one of the most malty IPAs I have ever tasted, which makes me *cough cough* hoppy!  Crazy drinkable with absolutely no semblance of alcohol, I think Abrasive is really nice when cold.  Lee’s two cents was that Abrasive Ale does succeed in tasting like a bigger version of Furious- perhaps a Furious Syrup (due to the sweet malt flavor, of course)?  Unique and complex wet hops and pink grapefruit are balanced nicely with the big maltiness, which doesn’t outshine the massive hop flavor.

Overall, I think this brew was a win.

Sink the Bismarck

"IPA for the dedicated"

“Holy Shit”- my words.

“I want to sleep in this glass”- Lee’s words.

That’s what happens when you set a pair of beer nerds loose on a 41% ABV rare Quadruple IPA (Eisbock) brewed by the mad scientists over at BrewDog.  Sink the Bismarck! is a creation of pure genius and sheer stupidity, as proven by the ever adorable Hans and Wolfgang.

First of all, the pour on this brew had absolutely no head, which at 41%, is a given.  This beer is basically on the verge of liquor-dom.  Once swirled, the beer gained a tiny yet pretty ecru head with little bubbles.

Although I’ve never had Absinthe, Lee convinced me that Bismarck! bordered on it’s aroma.  He also smelled spiced beef and creosote, as well as calling the beer “liquid Christmas tree.”  Put that in your candle and smoke it!  For me, the most prominent smell was pine sap mixed with Caribbean run cake.  As a former deli employee, I got a strong mixture of Pastrami and Londonport broil, wet leather, wood stain and polyurethane.

Taste-wise, it was licorice and really bitter syrup for Lee- definitely still an IPA with the texture and taste of both maple syrup and glycerine while also being astronomically more intense (think Absinthe, Chartreuse, Benedictine, or any other herb-based French spirit).  I totally felt the BURN and wanted a chaser with this brew, whereas, with most liquer, I don’t need such a thing.  It really is amazing how much this 41% brew really DOES still taste like an IPA.  With a bite of Anise and Sambuca, Bismarck! is very close to hoppy whiskey.

Sink the Bismarck! is definitely not a beer for everyone- a real acquired taste.  It is, however, a very well thought out and quality brew that should be slowly sipped and thoroughly enjoyed.

And so, as you can see- there are many different types of IPAs out there to try- and each with very different tastes.  I hope this piece has inspired you to get out there and try something new!

Cheers!

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Homebrew Adventure, Day #1… And the Journey Begins…

Hey hey hey, readers!

For quite awhile, I have known that I wanted to homebrew.  However, due to space and climate restrictions, I didn’t believe it possible.  My impatience in this matter has proven a virtue, leading me to the decision that I wouldn’t care about the rules and would follow the beat of my own drum, starting to homebrew even with the restraints set upon me.

Last week I went onto Amazon and bought Charlie Papazian’s book, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.  It arrived yesterday and, on the subway this morning, I learned from Michael Jackson (the beer aficionado, not the singer/songwriter) that Charlie had once dressed up like a blueberry pie.  Ironically enough, when I came home from work tonight, Charlie had posted on his facebook page (yes, that’s right, I’m his FRIEND mothatruckas!) a picture of that very same pie costume from the 1970s.  This is why I love the beer community- we’re all fun loving geeks with a zest for life and a passion for the experience.

I cannot put Charlie’s book down, and it has me so excited about homebrewing that I have decided to document my experience, hoping that I, too, can inspire that desire for the good ol’ kettle and the pride of sharing your homebrew creations in you, my loyal readers.  You, too, can experience the shenanigans along with me- hopefully learning about the process and my mistakes and successes along the way.

And so, tonight begins my long journey on the train track to homebrewership.  Fists will fly, cities (of malt) will burn, and beer will be brewed…

Are you prepared?

Tonight, the inaugural night of my travels, included a trip to Midwest Supplies online, where I sought this:

Brewing Starter Kit

Brewing Starter Kit, courtesy of MidwestSupplies.com

The Brewer’s Starting Kit is their most popular kit and includes all the equipment a girl could need for her first 5 gallon brew!  With some help from some homebrewing greats (and friends- you know who you are) I settled on this kit from Midwest because they have a great reputation for good equipment and great customer service.  I bought the kit and will sit like a puppy by the door until it comes home to mama.

Now, I will settle into bed, open up The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and delve into the first chapter of my homebrewing life.

Relax, have a homebrew…

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Brooklyn Style Shenanigans, or the Best Date Ever

Recently, I moved from uptown Manhattan (Hah-LEM!) to the big B-K.  What better way to celebrate such a move than to explore the wonderful beer scene available in the area with my boyfriend and fellow beer guru as my tour guide?

There isn’t one.

So, without further ado, I present to you our Brooklyn Style Shenanigans in photo form.

Bierkraft Menu

First stop... Bierkraft!

Wall o Beer

The Wall o' Beer Signs at Bierkraft

Food and Bierkraft

Our lunch consisted of (for me) Black Albert Imperial Stout; Honey turkey, caramelized onions and ginger apple chutney on a baguette; and BBQ chips, and (for Lee), Stone Brewing Co Emperial IPA; Bratwurst; and Voodoo Chips- YUM!

Beerelationship

Black Albert and I had a very nice beerelationship going...

Round 2

Round 2- Emelisse Rauch Bier (for me) and Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel! 'Péché Mortal' Imperial Coffee Stout (for Lee)

Lee and I

Cheers for Bierkraft!

Mission Dolores

While hard to find, this new bar (in a converted garage space) is charming and a great indoor/outdoor space

El Barro

El Barro- check out the taps!

Indoor/Outdoor

The skylit roof over the bar created an enclosed space with an open doorway to a courtyard area

Sam, the Wonder Pup

This little guy's name was Sam (yep, after Sam Adams) and not only did we find him here at Mission Dolores (don't let the sad face fool you, he was getting LOTS of love) but he followed us to our next drinking hole as well! Pub crawl puppy? Yes, please!

Yum

Drinking a Stoudt's Imperial IPA Sam-style...

Cervezas

Cervezas- My Stoudt's Imperial IPA again along with Lee's Sierra Nevada's Charlie, Fritz and Ken's Imperial Helle's

PINBALL!

Yes, I am playing Lord of the Rings Pinball. And, yes, I did get a high score. And no, I am NOT a nerd!... Jerk...

Intensity

Ok... so I got a little intense... not gonna lie...

The Gate

Welcome to The Gate!

Tap List

The tap list at The Gate

Gate Beers

My Speakeasy Double Daddy meets Lee's Lagunita's Wilco Tango Foxtrot (WTF?)... Hilarity ensues...

Psychedelic

Apparently, this is what things start to look like once you've had five high ABV beers... #justsayin.

PBR

No thanks- I'll take a pint of deliciousness, please!

The Gate

The bar at the Gate

Beer Table

The draft list at Beer Table

Beer Table Brews

The Bruery Tradewinds Tripel and Avery Maharaja IPA

Lost in my Tradewinds Tripel

Lost in my Tradewinds Tripel by candlelight...

Lee

Lee's cranky 'cause his glass is empty...

Artsy Fartsy

Beer Table is a classy establishment- it made me feel all "artsy fartsy"...

FOOD

The food at Beer Table is mouthwatering- Ricotta Bread and Carmelized Bacon with Roasted Red Potatoes...

BFM

We finished off the night with BFM's new offering called "Douze", a salty, fruity American Pale Ale

Lee and I

I think we may be the cutest beer couple ever...

To see the rest of our shenanigans, check out my “Park Slope Pub Crawl” photo album here. Cheers!

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Mikkeller Study #1 – Does Barrel Type Make a Difference?

Mikkeller Black Hole Series

Mikkeller Black Hole, Wine-Barrel Aged Black Hole, Rum-Barrel Aged Black Hole, Bourbon-Barrel Aged Black Hole & Whiskey-Barrel Aged Black Hole

Mikkel Borg Bjergsø is one interesting man.  One whom I affectionately call “The Nomad Brewer”, as he hops from brewery to brewery, contracting out space to make his own brews.  This young brewer is a revolutionary, in my mind, focusing on beer collections that study the various aspects of brewing that can affect the taste of beer.  Series so far include the single hop series which features the same base and uses one each of different hops so that the drinker can taste and compare the flavorings of each hop, and the following series which I am to review- the Black Hole Barrel-Aged Series. (Blogger’s Note: I understand that there is a new release happening of a Yeast Series- exciting!)

The Black Hole Barrel-Aged Series contains the same base brew- a stout brewed with coffee, vanilla and honey.  That base is available as is, Red Wine barrel-aged, Rum barrel-aged, Bourbon barrel-aged, and Whiskey barrel-aged (see picture above- they even had a cute color coding system on the labels and foil that wrapped the cork!)  The results, I think you’ll agree, are very interesting:

Black Hole Stout brewed with coffee, vanilla and honey:

On the nose, this brew has a deep alcohol aroma that is reminiscent of Sharpies mixed with polyurethane and wood stain.  Moreover, though, it has a glorious mixture of dark chocolate ice cream, damp earth, caramel flavored coffee, butterscotch and crumb cake to offer your sniffer as well.  The sip is glorious as well- in fact, the only word that kept coming to mind while drinking this confection was “glorious”.  Godiva liquer with an espresso bite dances on the tongue.  The mouth-feel on this brew is that of confectioner’s sugar mixed with carob powder- thick and damp but ashy and sweet.

Wine barrel-aged:

The wine barrels introduce raspberry fudge to the scent of this brew.  The vanilla cuts through more, hinting at strawberry malted.  The taste is brighter and creamier; less ashy and dirty.  The wine undertones are definitely present on the smell and taste, making the wine barrel-aged version tart versus the bitterness of the original.

Rum barrel-aged:

Immediately, rum barrages my nostrils.  Dark rum swirled with brown sugar and topped with chocolate ganache.  The honey is more pronounced on this version, as well as wood chips.  This is the most drinkable of all of the Black Holes, not as boozy on the mouth (or throat or tummy) with a bright fizz that meets the throat.  This brew is deliciously balanced, which adds to its scarily drinkable (at 13.1% ABV) persona.  The aroma definitely has more fire than the taste, which finishes off with a gingerbread, nutbread and spice cake feel.

Bourbon barrel-aged:

Peat, moss, rain, onion grass, sap, and vegetation all greet my nasal passages for the bourbon barrel-aged Black Hole.  Cacao is also thoroughly present.  While very similar to the taste of the base Black Hole, this brew has an even boozier flame, so that it’s rough going down in that classic bourbon way.  This is my least favorite of the bunch and makes me think of dirty chocolate.

Whiskey barrel-aged:

Surprisingly, the first thing I smell on this beer is Dentist’s office- fluoride, Ben-gay, soap and sanitizer.  The taste looses a lot of the chocolate flair that the base Black Hole brings to the plate, replacing it with very earthy flavors, such as grass, peat, seaweed, and ashy carbon.  The whiskey influence is clearly evident in this version.

Clearly, while each one of these brews started out as the Black Hole proper, the barrel aging had a deep effect on what their eventual taste and aroma would be.  I was quite surprised at just how different each of these brews were- but I’m not joking when I say that it was almost impossible to realize that they were from the same base, had Mikkeller not packaged them that way.  This was quite an eye opening experience for me, one I hope to bring with me in my eventual homebrewing escapades.

I hope that my fellow beer connoisseurs can have chances to partake in beer studies like the one that I have just completed.  The learning curve is fascinating.  But, for now, those of you who cannot partake in these brews will just have to take my word for it.

Cheers, frienditos!

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When Beer Collections Converge – or, I Think We Need a Bigger Fridge

Brews Number 1-8

Brews Number 1-8

What happens when two beer geeks try to converge delicious beer collections?  The need for a bigger fridge arises. What happens when that isn’t possible (say at 7PM on a Sunday evening)?  I get to drinkin’, THAT’s what happens!

So after a month of moving shenanigans, I sat down Sunday night with a gamut of 15 different brews at my disposal, waiting to be drunk for fear of a slow and painfully stinky death.

And so, faithful readers, we begin another journey of epic proportions through the realm of craft beer stylings available today.  I hope you can keep up with me…

1. Summer Weizen Ale / Smuttynose Brewing Co., New Hampshire, USA / Wheat Ale / 5.8%

With a clear pale gold pour and thick white head, this beer resembles more of a filtered wheat beer than a hefeweizen.  On the nose it is clearly herbal tea and grass, which makes sense since Smuttynose touts it as “brewed with chamomile”.  The taste is reminiscent of lime Runts or perhaps even a lime sorbet palate cleanser.  It is watery and refreshing but with a great bite and carbonated kick-a good outdoorsy beer for with a summer barbeque.

2. Woody Creek White Belgian Wit / Flying Dog Brewery, Maryland, USA / Belgian-style Wit / 4.8%

The aroma on this cloudy straw colored brew is that of the nature of Summer- the earthen smells of those hot , humid days; weedy, overgrown green smells merge together with sudden rainstorms and wet wood.  Orange and coriander are definitely prevalent in the Woody Creek brew.  Flying Dog offers a strong Belgian flavoring with clean wit texture in this brew.

3. Bitter Brewer / Surly Brewing Co, Minnesota, USA / English Bitter / 4.0%

While I’ve seen similar colors in other brews, I had never before thought to call the color of this brew Athletic Gold, but that’s exactly what it is.  Think classic sports teams with that deeper, yellowish, mustardy gold.  While the Flying Dog smelled of Summer proper, this brew gives off the essence of Christmas- the bitter orange aroma of clementines from my family members’ stockings and piny hops.  The taste also brought forth bittery clementine.

4. Red Trolley Ale / Karl Strauss Brewing Co, California, USA / American Amber Ale / 5.8%

Well, seeing as how I’m on a roll tonight with beer aroma, I’ll add this one to the mix.  This copper penny colored Ale smells of red wine and fresh rolls- the faint aroma of an Italian Restaurant.  On the same token, it tastes of a freshly baked sourdough roll with toffee pieces in it.  The sweet and bready flavoring of this brew makes it highly like-able in my world, but intense hop lovers should move on.

5. One / Dark Horse Brewing Co, Michigan, USA / Oatmeal Stout Ale / 8.0%

I have to say, I was uber excited to open up this brew.  I’d heard much about the Dark Horse stout series, and I’m a stout freak, so how can it get any better than that?  (Plus- I experienced Plead the Fifth just a day before, and, well, if I said how great it was here, I’d have to kill you.  That review will come another day…)  With a nose of malted milk balls and hot buttered toast, the “One” Oatmeal Stout tastes super buttery, just like the Oatmeal cookies my Dad makes with the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe (just insert instant oatmeal and voila!)

6. Too / Dark Horse Brewing Co, Michigan, USA / Cream Stout / 8.0%

Again, I was excited for this Dark Horse brew, however, the Cream Stout style of Ale had never really seemed to impressed me before.  I was SO wrong.  This bear of a beer smelled and tasted so delicious, I capped it up and saved the last 2/3 of the bottle so that I could drink it for enjoyment.  With a meaty and earthen aroma, the SUPER creamy texture felt like melty soft ice cream in my mouth.  I likened this brew to dark chocolate syrup on bacon flavored biscuits- if anyone knows of a place that makes such a thing, email me… now.

7. Scratch #27 (Cocaoabunga) / Troeg’s Brewing Co, Pennsylvania, USA / Milk Stout / 6.7%

This clear dark brown brew with a tiny, tan head smelled deeply of chocolate liquor, despite its meager 6.7% ABV rating.  So, the taste of this brew totally makes me have to admit something somewhat weird about myself.  It tastes just like Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate powder mix… let me explain.  I’m one of those people who likes to, once the mix is added to my hot chocolate, spoon the floating bubbles of undissolved chocolate powder up and eat it.  Gross, some people say, while others agree with me- that sh*t is delicious!  I swear- next time, try it, and tell me you don’t like it!  Or just drink Scratch 27, if you can get your hands on it.

8. Big Sound Scotch Ale / Cigar City Brewing Company, Florida, USA / Scotch Ale / 8.5%

Let me just start off by saying that Cigar City may just be my favorite brewery.  These guys have yet to fail me on a brew- everything that they offer is well thought out and really delicious.  Big Sound stays true to my word on this.  The beautiful cloudy cherry mohagony brew had one of the biggest noses of the night with a chewy toffee bread flair, similar to that of Panera’s Cinnamon Crunch Bagel.  Monkey bread, a bready peel off cake dish smothered in toffee, caramel gooey-ness.  Cherry rock candy meets toffee cookie in this huge and complex brew.  Yum!

Brews Number 9-15

Brews Number 9-15

9. Old Brown Dog Ale / Smuttynose Brewing Co, New Hampshire, USA / 6.7%

Sad to say, this may have been my least favorite brew of the night.  The aroma leaves much to be desired, as there’s not much actually there.  The Ale is tart, yes, I’ll give Smuttynose that, but it’s barely tart and there’s nothing spectacular about it.  This may be because I had it right after that crazy complex Cigar City Scotch Ale, which is sad, but a beer should stand up for itself, no matter what you have before or after it.

10. Tripel Over Head / Mother Earth Brewing Co, North Carolina, USA / 9.0%

Props to Mother Earth Brewing Company for their sustainable brewing practices.  This Tripel is highly commendable- the odor is straight up Belgian and the taste just screams of clove (with a few bananas thrown in for good luck).  The only issue I had with this brew was the weird aftertaste that reminded me of dirty water.  For a smaller brewery with sustainable brewing, this output is a good, solid Belgian and a delicious intro to the style.

11. Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple Over Head / Mother Earth Brewing Co, North Carolina, USA / 9.0%

Clearly darker gold and with a thicker, fluffier head, this brew is completely different from is base brother.  The nose is that of spice and robust, “fancy” cheese.  On the tongue I get a mixture of cheese and malt- perhaps a mac and cheese made of monteray jack or a tiny quiche-like pastry made of phyllo dough, gouda, and topped with carmelized onions.  It is much better for my style than the base itself, however, that is purely a subjective matter.  Two very solid offering from Mother Earth- cheers, men!

12. Adam / Hair of the Dog Brewing Co, Oregon, USA / Hearty Old World Ale / 10.0%

All that comes to mind when I try to remember this brew is… leather, leather, leather.  Smoked leather, tanned hide, stained leather, you name it!  My first reaction when tasting this bad boy was, literally, “Yum!”  Burnt buttered toast meet pork meat.  It is deliciously complex but drinkable.  Smokey, but not ashy; salty, but not bready; etc; these are the pluses to Adam.

13.India Pale Ale / Avery Brewing Co, Colorado, USA / IPA / 6.3%

While malty at first, this brew gives way to bitter and citrusy hops.  It’s a good, solid, IPA but nothing to write home to mom about.  It’s classic and easy to drink, but there are better examples of the IPA style available out there today.

14. Double Trouble / Founder’s Brewing Co, Michigan, USA / Imperial IPA / 9.4%

Clear straw colored with a large, foamy head, this beer smelled of wet forest including damp wood and leaves.  Malty, sweet caramel meets bitter, earthen hops in this great example of an Imperial IPA.  Uber drinkable and delicious as well, this beer makes me love Founder’s even more.  (Blogger’s Note: on the same night, at the same time, characters from the HBO series “Hung” were drinking Founder’s Double Trouble as well… score one for craft beer!)

15. XS Imperial Red Ale / Rogue Brewery, Oregon, USA / Imperial Red Ale / 9.0%

This deep brown, foamy brew combines sweet, bitter, candied hops with a hint of chocolate.  It’s somewhat lacking and surprisingly one dimensional and flat for an offering from Rogue.  The Red Ale is definitely not my cup of tea, which was fine, since I had more of that Dark Horse “Too” to delve into to save my dying palate.

Cheers, my dears!

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Homebrew Review #3 – Joe Postma’s Brews

Joe Postma

Smilin' Joe - Courtesy of Sarah & Joe Postma

I have the pleasure of many beer friends who are also experimental home brewers, and among the most nerdy of them is Joe Postma.  Joe is Über passionate about beer and even carries around spectrophotometer with which to gauge the color of the beer he drinks.  It is adorable and heartening to see someone who cares so much about quality beer.

Joe was kind enough to pass along to me three of his recent homebrew creations: “Ababa”, originally brewed to mimic the Black IPA style; “Hot Chocolate”, a spicy chili stout; and “Tripel”, a Belgian Tripel.

Brewer Joe

Brewer Joe - Courtesy of Sarah & Joe Postma

“Ababa” was the first try of the night, and sadly, my least favorite of the bunch.  It featured a super dark, opaque pour and a yummy chalky dark chocolate aroma.  Throughout an evolving recipe, Joe grew this beer into something that was super hopped with Sorachi Ace hops.  The result was that of very bitter dirty earth.  Joe let me know that he was having some problems with carbonation on this brew, and it shows.  I think carbonation would make the brew much better by cutting some of the deep bitterness.  Overall, however, this brew is a commendable step on the right path toward Joe’s Black IPA goal, although the funky aftertaste leaves something to be desired.

Next,  I dove into “Hot Chocolate”, a Russian Imperial Stout made with ancho chilis and chocolate, inspired by Cigar City Brewing’s Hunahpu Stout.  This is my kind of beer, so I was SUPER excited to try it.  And, let me tell you, Joe does not dissapoint.  With a deep fudge and chocolate ganache icing aroma, like that of Entenmann’s Brownie Cake, this brew boasts a Mole-ish chocolate spice.  It reminds me of the Taza Aztec Guajillo Chili Chocolate that I once had from Whole Foods.  The brew has a nice semi-thickness to it that eases the sip, which burns nicely, not overwhelmingly- surprising for a 10.2% Chili stout!  “Hot Chocolate” was my favorite of the three and took the cake for the night.  Honestly, this beer could pass for professional grade and be sold on store shelves tomorrow.  Joe has taken obvious care with this brew and certainly reaped the rewards! Warning: This beer is not for the faint of spice…

Pour

Pour - Courtesy of Sarah & Joe Postma

Last, but definitely not least, came the “Tripel”.  For this brew, Joe went with the “less is more” mentality, and kept the beer to a few simple ingredients- Pilsner Malt, Belgian Candy Sugar, Hallertau Hops and Belgian Abbey yeast.  It is clearly a Belgian through and through, what with the smelling of florals, coriander, clove, Spring rain and bananas.  Oddly enough, Joe described this beer as very dry, while I received it as a super wet brew.  The Tripel was very refreshing and soft tasting.  Joe made good use of his tiny bubbles on this one.  Bananas are super prevalent on the taste of this brew as well- making it a good strong Belgian ale.

Whew!  All this homebrew tasting and writing is making me thirsty!  What do you think Joe?….. Joe?…………

Nothing gets between a man and his beer

Nothing gets between a man and his beer! Courtesy of Sarah & Joe Postma

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