Breweries "Visited"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fun Dogs and Bad Calls

Beer #234 C.S.B. / Laughing Dog Brewing, Ponderay, ID

I'm apparently headed to the mall tonight to help the Mrs. shop for an outfit.  If don't make it back alive, at least I got 234 beer posts in the book, which ought to at least be worth a bronze medal.  In other news today, about 3,000 Penn State fans showed up to cheer on the football team as they walked into their first practice - one of them holding up a sign that showed off PSU's top ranked graduation stats for players, something I'm sure the NCAA missed when describing the school as an out of control football factory.  I digress.

Tonight's beer comes to us from Laughing Dog Brewing in Idaho.  I'm drinking the C.S.B., which is their version of an Extra Special Bitter, or ESB.  In the glass, it shows off a clear, dark amber hue with a lingering white head.  You pick up the aroma of citrus, and malt, and the taste gives you flavors of caramel, biscuit, apple, lemon, and tea.  There's some hop bitterness in there if you look hard enough.  Really nice ESB, and definitely one I'd like to drink again, maybe at a tailgate this fall

Good dog.

In case you're wondering, and I'm quite certain you are, the name of this beer is an abbreviation for "Crotch Sniffing Bastard" and is named for Ben, the laughing dog which the brewery is named for (and, if you believe the website, owned by).  Apparently, that's how he likes to say hello.  I'm not one to judge, our dog Flash liked to make out with everyone he met.  That dog tongue kissed more strangers than a sorority girl on spring break.  Ah, the dog's life.

Thing to Think About Today:
Life at the Olympics isn't all shining moments and good sportsmanship.  Sometimes, there are moments that defy words, such as the 1972 men's basketball gold medal game between the USA and USSR.  For those who aren't familiar, the Soviets were given three additional chances in the waning seconds of the game, with each call to allow for extra time more ludicrous than the last.  Read about it here, and watch some straight up bullshit for yourself:

To this day, the American team refuses to accept their silver medals; they sit in a bank vault somewhere in Switzerland, where they will likely sit forever.  

Beer 234: C.S.B. Best Beer Acronym Ever

C.S.B. = Crotch Sniffing Bastard or one of the best beer names I've encountered so far on this adventure.

C.S.B. is brewed by Laughing Dog Brewing out of Idaho. The name of the beer comes from the brewery dog's over zealous and highly personal greeting. Having known a few crotch sniffing canines in my day, I can easily see how one gets from friendly dog name to crotch sniffing bastard.

It pours a deep amber color with a full tan head. It smells mildly hoppy with some malt notes. It's everything one would expect from an ESB (extra special bitter). Just a touch of bitter but overall well balanced. A nice toasty malt flavor. This one has low carbonation and is very smooth. I like it!


Monday, July 30, 2012

A Good Sort of Evil

Beer #233 Blind Eye PA / Evil Genius Beer Company, West Grove, PA

The beer for today is the Blind Eye pale ale from Evil Genius.

One MILLION beers!

No, not that evil genius.  The Evil Genius Beer Company, a start up brewery here in Pennsylvania.  I had this beer on draft courtesy of a growler I brought home from Whole Foods - a mere $5 for 32oz of beer, one of the better deals you'll find around.  This beer poured a clear, bright amber color and gave off a floral aroma. The taste is light and flavorful, with notes of caramel sweetness, citrus, and malt.  Maybe some hints of tea in there as well.  That being said, it's a really nice beer, and well worth your efforts if you see this one on draft in your local watering hole.

Evil Genius was started by some Villanova graduate students.  Makes me mad that I didn't meet any brewers during my (non-Villanova) graduate school days.  Nertz.

Thing to Think About Today:
Imagine you're already an Olympic long shot.  So, what do yo do when you're matched up against the greatest wrestler of all time - a guy who has already won three gold medals over the span of 12 years, was undefeated lifetime in international competition, and in fact hadn't given up a point in over six years?  What do you do with that?

Just win, baby.  Rulon Gardner, take it away:

"Do you believe in miracles again?"

Beer 233: Mean Old Tom

I love the label on this bottle of Mean Old Tom from the Maine Beer Company. . It is simple and incredibly appealing. You know what's also appealing?

This beer.

It is amazing. Mean Old Tom is a stout aged on natural vanilla beans. It pours a deep, dark chocolate brown with a thick cocoa color head. The smell lightly roasted coffee and malt. The flavor is full despite a nice thinness to the mouthfeel. It is roasted malt, a touch of coffee and a vanilla soda like taste. Every few sips I also get a bit of cola flavor as well. Complex but refreshing. Exactly what I need after a long day of staring at budgets.

Just because I like knowing this about the brewers I enjoy...Maine Beer Company is dedicated to the environment. They use renewable energy, spent grain is donated to a local farm, everything but the kitchen sink is reused or recycled and 1% of all sales are given to environmental nonprofits. This is the kind of business I can get behind. Cheers!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Picnic Beer and Clutch Performances

Beer #232 Brewfarm Select / Dave's BrewFarm, Wilson, WI

Got home rather late last night after a very fun wedding, so today was spent sleeping in, with a bike ride and some errands sprinkled in for good measure.  Time for dinner and prime time coverage of the Olympics.  I'm trying to not follow along on Twitter, so that there can be some measure of excitement and uncertainty when I watch, but it's not easy.

Today's beer was one I had at a picnic in Valley Forge National Park (yes, you're not supposed to bring beer there, so let's keep that between you and me) for a carillon concert.  For the unaware, they have free concerts every Wednesday evening in the summer, and for those unaware of the carillon, the best way I can describe it would be "gigantic church bells' played by some keyboard apparatus.  Hard to explain, but the woman playing them rocked out a medley of Sesame Street and Muppets classics.  The BrewFarm Select, from Dave's BrewFarm in Wisconsin, is a perfect picnic beer.  In my blue plastic cup, it had a golden, amber color and a slightly sweet aroma.  The taste is clean and easy, with malt and grain and some sweetness in there as well.  Perfect for a summer evening in the park, and something for people who want a lighter beer that has more flavor than something like a Miller Lite.

Their website is more of a blog right now, although it does appear they're moving to more of a traditional website format.  Therefore, it's hard to say much about this brewery, other than it appears to be wind powered.  Nice.

Thing to Think About Today:
I think anyone will agree that what gymnasts can do is beyond absurd.  Gravity seems to not apply.  So, let's take a moment and think of possibly the most clutch (and maybe inspiring) moment from certainly gymnastics, and maybe the entire world of sport.  Needing a great score on the vault to keep her USA team alive for the gold medal, all Kerri Strug did on her first attempt.... was fall down and miss her vault, injuring her knee in the process.  On her last attempt?  Oh, just goes ahead and wins the gold by sticking her landing ON ONE LEG.

How on earth is that even possible?

Beer 232: New Belgium Dig

Ever have one of those days where your body is just all I've had enough and everything feels like the hardest task on earth? Yeah, that's me today. Not hungover. Not sick. Just beat. This afternoon's 13 mile bike ride was a terrible slow slog that has rendered my legs useless. I may fall asleep on my iPad as I sit here and type. First world problems indeed.

Today I'm drinking a Dig by New Belgium Brewing out of Fort Collins (Colorado). I'm a big fan of New Belgium's brews and they've been a staple of our beer consumption on our last two Colorado vacations. Dig is a new release for 2012. My go to beers from New Belgium are the Fat Tire and Somersault.

Dig poured a bright amber color with an off white head that's leaving behind some lacing. It has a strong scent...lots of malt and hops, some lemon and a bit of fruit. It has a medium mouthfeel, full but not thick. The flavor has lots of hops, some lemon and a nice amount of malt. The lemon is thanks to the Sorachi hops. Good to know.

This is an American pale ale that I can absolutely dig. Ha! Cheers!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weddings and Beers

Beer #231 Dolii Raptor / Birrificio Montegioco, Montegioco, Italy

I'm attending my cousin's wedding today, so you get the short & sweet (but not as sweet as my bitchin' seersucker suit & pink bow tie combo).

Today's beer is the Dolii Raptor, a Belgian strong ale from Birrificio Montegioco.  It pours a hazy, amber orange color with a thin white head.  It has a honey and orange aroma, and the taste brings you flavors of citrus and malt, with a noticeable sweetness, and a dry, oaky finish.  Really nice, complex beer.  It's a potent 8.5% ABV, and I look forward to having this one again somewhere down the road.

This brewery started production in 2005, in a town located between Milan and Genoa.  This special version of Dolii Raptor is aged in Calvados oak barrels previously used in wine production (regular versions of this beer are aged in other barrels).  In fact, they offer a number of uniquely brewed or barrel aged beers, all of which sound delicious.

Thing to Think About Today:
The Olympics are underway, medals are already being handed out (not for you, Michael Phelps... yet), and I now need to glue myself to a television for the next two weeks.  Let's kick off with some classic Carl Lewis highlights from his nine gold and one silver medal winning career spanning sprints and the long jump:

Citius, Altius, Fortius.

Beer 231: Dolii Raptor Ale

Today's post will be short and sweet. I'm about to go celebrate good friends who just got married today. The business is out of the way and it's about to be party time!

For now I'm biding my time by toasting the new bride and groom with the Dolli Raptor from Birrificio Montegioco. It's brewed in Italy and per the label, it is a special edition ale matured in Dupont calvados oak barrels.

It poured a hazy apricot tinged amber color with an off white head that quickly faded away. The scent is very light....kind of a slightly sweet oak aroma. The flavor starts out very reminiscent of a Gueuze...a strong tart aroma and flavor as the smell hits my nose and the beer hits my taste buds. It quickly reveals a nice round oak and finishes with just a hint of earthy funk.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Beer 230: Steelhead Extra Pale Ale

Today Operation Hot Stuff comes to fruition. What's that you ask? It's playing hookey on a Friday afternoon, getting some cocktails with the girls and watching Magic Mike. I suppose there's all kind of cock jokes that can be made at this time, however I am a mature woman so I'll pass. Instead I'll be giggling like a schoolgirl at the first sight of a naked thigh or pelvic thrust!

Onto the beer review so I can get this show on the road. Tonight's beer is from Mad River Brewing Company.

The Steelhead Extra Pale Ale poured a slightly hazy deep golden liquid. It had a small white head. The aroma was strong on malts and smelled vaguely of prunes. The taste was bold...lots of malt, strong hop presence with some caramel. This is a nice beer. That's solid praise from someone who not too long along ran from anything with pale ale in the title.


Olympic Time!

Beer #230 Steelhead Extra Pale Ale / Mad River Brewing Company, Blue Lake, CA

As I write this, we're one hour away from the opening ceremony of the Olympics.  Well, we're one hour away from it being televised, as it's already happened.  However, I've been on twitter and internet lock down, as I'm trying to not learn about what's in store for this awesome spectacle.  For those who don't know me, or for those who do know me but forget this key fact, I LOVE the Olympics.  Something about the best athletes from around the globe coming together every four years to put all their hopes, dreams, hard work, training, sweat, and fears on the line for one shot at glory is astounding to me.  I love the history, the legends, the personal stories, the pageantry, the random countries who didn't exist a few years ago competing.... I love it all.  And tonight it starts!

So, let's get today's beer done with - the Steelhead Extra Pale Ale from Mad River Brewing.  It pours an effervescent pale gold, with a lingering white head.  There's a light, earthy aroma, and the taste gives you nice flavors of malt, sweet caramel, and bread, with a mild hop bitterness.  Nice balance of hops and malt, and I'll definitely put this on the list to drink again post-365 adventure.


The seeds for this brewery were planted in the late 70's, when their Bob Smith, the founder, bought home brew supplies from the person who ended up starting Sierra Nevada.  When Sierra Nevada outgrew their first brewery and were building a larger one, Smith bought their old equipment, and the rest is history.

Thing to Think About Today;
I intend to use this space to highlight some of the triumphs and tragedies the Olympics have provided through the years, but to start it all off (and because I'm in a hurry), I'll pay homage to London, home of the 2012 Olympics, via the Clash's London Calling:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Beer 229: Julius Echter Hefe-Weiss

It's late and I've had a long day of being super productive so I could duck out of work early to hit the salon. It takes work to maintain these good looks...I can't risk a bad beer blog paparazzi photo! Oh wait. The beer blog paparazzi only stalk me in my sleep. So yeah...on to the beer.

It is the Julius Echter Hefe-Weiss brewed in Germany by Wurzburger Hofbrau.

It poured a very cloudy straw color with a thin white head. There were lots of bananas and clove in the nose. It smells fantastic. The taste is spicy and fruit ester and it has a creamy mouthfeel. I would really love this beer if the carbonation wasn't so prickly. Overall it is delicious and a great example of a hefeweizen.


The Magic Number

Beer #229 3 Monts Grande Réserve / Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre, Saint Sylvestre Cappel, France

As I write this, a vicious storm appears to be moving in.  Time to batten down the hatches and keep this quick, as houses on our street tend to lose power when storms like this blow through.

Today, I'm going with the 3 Monts Grande Réserve, a biere de garde from Saint Sylvestre.  I'm a big fan of biere de gardes, and this one does not disappoint.  I had to wrestle with this one for a bit, as instead of a traditional wire cage, its cork is held in place with a giant staple.  Yes, a big old, industrial, metal staple.  Once I won the wrestling match and cracked it open, I was rewarded with a light amber hued beer with a lingering, fluffy white marshmallow-esque head.  Threre's a floral, sweet aroma, and the taste has a creamy feel, with apple, pear candi sugar, bread, and honey, with very little hop bitterness.  Tastes a bit boozy, and it somewhat is, with an 8.3% ABV.  Really nice beer, and well worth your hard earned dollars should you see it available somewhere.

Even without any help, you can probably translate the name of this beer to 'Three Mountains,' which refers to a mountainous area in Flanders, which originally was an obstacle for this brewery to get their beer to other neighboring towns.  This brewery doesn't know the original date when operations started, but it has been in operation since at least the 1860's, if not earlier.

Thing to Think About Today:
In the spirit of three, I give you two choices:  Which is the better take on the notion that three, is in fact the magic number?



Apologies that youtube doesn't have the original version of this song available in a video that wasn't shot on someone's iPhone at a concert.  However, whichever one you choose it's clear that three is the magic number. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Giant Post!

Beer #228 Goliath / Brasserie des Geants, Irchonwelz, Belgium

Today was another day where I tried to avoid the internet, because every time I broke down and started reading up on the news of the day related to PSU, I instantly wanted to bash my head off my desk and give myself a concussion.  I get that people have strong opinions about Penn State, but reading a headline on the CNN crawl or some op-ed piece from a writer looking to get page views doesn't give you a very informed opinion.  You know what they say about opinions and assholes.

In lighter news, I saw a road crew who would have been painting lines on the road, except they were all standing around staring at an enormous paint spill that covered the road.  Ooopsie!  Yesterday, I saw a toilet sitting on the curb on my way to work, as though someone was waiting for the garbage truck to come and pick it up.  Or, they were building an outdoor bathroom, and were just amassing their required fixtures for the project.  Yeah, this morning?  Smashed on the road, because what else would happen to a toilet left outside overnight?

Shitter's full.  Wait... no it isn't.

Sorry the picture wasn't better, but there was traffic behind me waiting for my photo shoot to end.  Today's beer is the Goliath from Brasserie des Geants, a Belgian tripel.  It pours a hazy gold color, and you pick up a floral, somewhat sweet aroma.  When you take a sip, you notice honey, sweet malt, with a hint of pepper and hops in the finish.  Good amount of carbonation, and it packs a solid 9.0% ABV.

This brewery name translates to 'Brewery of the Giants' and to be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure about the deal with this brewery.  The bottle says that it's produced by Brasserie des Legendes, but when you go to the Legendes web page, you see content for Brasserie des Geants and La Brasserie Ellezelloise.  If someone knows the story, as my internet searching and Dutch translation skills aren't doing me any good today.

Giants not included

What I did seem to learn is that giants appear to live in this area of southern Belgium, and it's believed the Biblical story of David and Goliath was taken from old legends in this area.  Or, something like that.  They do have a giant-themed festival every year, if anyone is up for a road trip.

Thing to Think About Today:
My brewery research is giving me a headache, so I'm sticking with the giant theme and getting out of here.  Headed to the park for a picnic dinner.  Later, peoples.

Beer 228: BrewFarm Select

This one will be short and sweet as I'm writing as we picnic at Valley Forge National Park for their Wednesday evening carillon concert. For more on what a carillon is, check out this page.. It is awesome. Even more awesome when the third set of songs is a compilation of all your favorite Muppets and Sesame Street songs. Rainbow Connection anyone?

It's triple awesome because I smuggled some beer in my picnic basket! Tonight's beer is Dave's BrewFarm's American pale lager brewed in Wisconsin.

Sorry about that photo. It was hard to stage it especially when the beer is in a blue tailgate cup. It looks like it poured a deep golden color with a bit of white head. It smells a bit fruity and bread-like. Doesn't really smell like beer. The flavor is very sweet...just the faintest flavor of hops and really just sweet and grainy.

With the disappointing brew, I'm going to back my assessment of this evening down to double awesome and not triple awesome. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beer 227: Little White Lies, Scrimshaw and Beer

You know that point during your doctor's appointment where they ask how much you drink? You say three to five drinks per week and the doctor multiplies it by a number that adds back what you took out because you didn't want to sound like a booze hound. Well today I told my doctor I drink every night and then volunteered that it's only really good craft beer because that makes it better and that it's also for my blog about beer. At least I didn't get a list of the local AA meetings.

And as if I needed to provide more evidence, this photo is of today's beer and my pregame snack.

What game am I pregaming for? Tuesday night dinner at Teresa's Next Door for their Russian River tap takeover. And you know how I feel about Russian River's beer!

So here I sit with my North Coast Scrimshaw pilsner biding my time until I can head over to Teresa's.

The Scrimshaw poured a deep golden color...a lot darker than a typical pilsner. It had a thick white head that stuck around and lots of carbonation. It smells grainy. I'm guessing that's the barley. The flavor is well rounded -- barley, hops, very clean and crisp. Some biscuit in the flavor as well.

I'm usually not a big fan of pilsners but this one is awesome. Since I don't think I have any others in my top 25, this one makes that list. And my wait for dinner got much, much better Cheers!

Apparently, it's Sitcom Day

Beer #227 Jubilate / Brouwerij Pinkus MüllerMünster, Germany

Beer number 227 today!  Remember that 80's sitcom 227, starring Jackée?

Remember when?

Yeah, I don't either.   However, beer/brewery #227 is the Jubilate, a dark lager from Brouwerij Pinkus Müller.  I'm not exactly sure where we picked this up, but it's a safe bet to guess either Wegman's or Whole Foods.  Although not pictured (for some odd reason), it poured a dark amber color, with aromas of sweet malts and stone fruit.  There's a lot of malt up front, with pleny of honey sweetness, caramel, and a clean finish.  Quite nice, in fact, and rather drinkable at 5.5% ABV.  Marci's take on this beer can be found here.

Oddly not pictured: my glass with the beer in it
Pinkus Müller originally started out as a bakery, but the founder converted the business into a brewery in 1866.  Smart move.  This beer was originally brewed as a special beef for their anniversary - 'jubilate' translates to 'rejoice' in Latin. For those who are more focused on this sort of thing, the beer is also certified as organic. 

Thing to Think About Today:
If we're talking 80's sitcoms, I think we need to give some credit to The Cosby Show.  Is there anyone in America who was alive when this show was on who didn't watch every week?  Perfect family entertainment, although it did touch on more serious social issues as well.  Bill Cosby in his comic prime.  Sooo many good clips to choose from, let's go ahead and use a family musical number:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beer 226: Of Legends and Giants and Hollowed Out Souls

I'm going to dump all the Penn State, NCAA, JoePa, child abuse, scandal and football thoughts I have on you. It's going to be disjointed and I'm going to offend someone. I'm not going to say keep the victims in your thoughts at this difficult time because they aren't in mine. I barely think about the victims. I'm not going to write that I don't care about them. They just aren't among the things I get passionate about. Kind of like the plight of aborigines in Australia or the citizens of Iraq.

I'm not a JoePa loyalist, but I am a Penn State loyalist. I'm horrified that the Sandusky incidents were ignored, set aside, brushed under the rug or deemed dealt with. That sucks. All of that nonsense has led to the gutting of Penn State's athletic program and I can feel it in my soul. There is no way to separate feelings about football weekends, sports rivalries and excellent tailgates from my memories of college. Academics and athletics are forever woven together in my mind and heart, which is probably why I can't seem to shake this hollowed out feeling.

For so long Joe Paterno ran a clean program. It gave many of us license to think, say, write, "You don't see that shit happening at Penn State" when referencing scandals at Ohio State, Miami or USC. What would we all give to have a gold pants saga? But Joe wasn't perfect and he was an old man set in his ways. He would discipline his athletes the way he saw fit. There's no reason to play it all out in the public eye. That's unfortunate because things would be a lot different right now if he didn't have such a singular focus, if he would have picked his head up and asked questions.

And oh we're in the public eye now. I'm saddened because there hasn't been a thorough investigation outside of Sandusky's trial. Don't cite the Freeh report. That is the furthest thing from an independent or criminal investigation. We may never know the truth.

But let's go ahead anyway and try to destroy the football program at Penn State. Let's punish the current and future student athletes -- and not just football players...let's do something that penalizes all the student athletes, local businesses, and all of our opponents. Let's take $60 million and create an endowment to fund programs for the detection, prevention and treatment of child abuse.

Does a human being need to be taught how to detect and prevent child abuse? I don't think so. I'm pretty sure that comes along with being a decent human being. Perhaps if we all picked up our heads from our iPhones, Blackberries and Androids, we might notice what is going on around us. Perhaps if the country wasn't so eager to sue one another, people wouldn't turn a blind eye or they would ask questions.

So yes, today we tore down giants and kicked dead legends. I hope everyone feels satisfied. I, for one, sure as hell don't.


And now for the beer part of my rant. It is quite befitting of today's post. It's the tripel from Brasserie des Geants, which is brewed in the medieval castle of Irchonwelz in Belgium.
At 9% ABV, it will certainly help you forget about a day like today.

It is unpastuerized, unfiltered and bottle refermented. It poured a golden liquid with a full white head. It was very bubbly. The smell was orange and banana and a bit chalky. The taste is very malt forward with a very apparent alcohol content. It was also peppery with lots of zesty citrus and a full mouthfeel.

The brasserie is housed in a castle in the town of Irchonwelz in the French speaking south of Belgium. Its majestic gate stands high to allow the passage of the occasional visiting the town is famous for its annual giants parade.

I guess Penn State doesn't have to worry about giants and legends for a long time.


Not So Lucky

Beer #226 County Line IPA / Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company, Croydon, PA

I haven't been having much sports luck lately.  Flat tire on Sunday's bike ride started it off, then my basketball game tonight got rained out after ten minutes of play (although I did manage to squeeze off a sweet 1-4 shooting performance before the storm hit), and - oh yeah - the whole Penn State news from today.  As this is a (relatively speaking) family friendly blog, I won't bother you with my thoughts on the NCAA and  their draconian punishment today.  I'm going to get sushi at Bluefin, so I'm keeping this short.

Today's beer is the County Line IPA from Neshaminy Creek, another local product. This came on draft at The Boilermaker, and poured a hazy orange color in the glass, with a lingering fluffy white head.  There's a definitely an aroma of hops, but it's subdued.  The taste has light citrus notes with a dry hop bitterness, with floral undertones and some sweetness from the malt.  In all, very enjoyable, and a respectable 6.6% ABV.

Got a few sips in before I remembered I needed a picture

This is another new brewery in the Philly suburbs, having opened to the public late last year.  In reading their website, what I found interesting was the admission that this IPA wasn't what they originally intended, but due to the fact they couldn't get the hops they were looking for (Chinook, Citra), they had to modify the recipe.  One thing I've come to appreciate with these smaller, newer producers is that every batch of beer might be slightly different than the last as they continue to refine their process.  Whereas a Budweiser is going to taste like a Budweiser anywhere you have one at any time, the County Line IPA might have a stronger hop profile next time I drink one.  I like that to a degree - eventually, I do expect some standardization in my beer if I'm going to keep ordering it.   Life is like a box of chocolates, but my beer can occasionally be exactly what I was expecting.

Thing to Think About Today:
This song has nothing to do with anything.  At all.  Certainly nothing to do with my bad sports luck or today's tasty beer.  However, it is a fantastic song and was recently in a fantastic scene from Breaking Bad (admittedly, not the current season), and I've been humming it in my head ever since.  Get ready for The Pretenders and Boots of Chinese Plastic.

"By the way you look fantastic"

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On the Road (Or Not)

Beer #225 Toria Tripel / de Hoevebrouwers, Zottegem, Belgium

So today didn't quite go according to plan - after a long ride yesterday, we were hoping to get back on the bikes for a shorter but faster ride today.  Well, the ride was fast in one regard, as I very quickly ended up with a flat tire about a mile and a half into the journey.  So, I got to turn around and walk my bike back up a hill to the car, which was a workout, just not the one I was hoping for.  Courtesy of the good people at Performance Bicycle, I got it fixed in short order and we should be back on the road tomorrow.

The beer o' the day is the Toria Tripel from de Hoevebrouwers in Belgium.  This beer has a hazy straw color, with very little head.  There's a light aroma of fruit and citrus, and the taste has notes of citrus, malt, and pepper, with a rather hoppy and dry finish.  I was expecting a bit less hops and more fruit, but it's still a good beer and a good find, and I'd certainly have another (if there wasn't the pesky problem of needing to find new beers almost every day).

This brewer's name translates to 'The Farm Brewers' in English, and they're a newcomer in Belgium, having won am amateur homebrewing contest back in 2006.  Six years later, I can get their beer on draft at TJ's, which is an awesome accomplishment in a relatively short time.

Thing to Think About Today:
My time on the road was cut short today, but I can make up for that later.  However, On the Road is still our thing to think about today - but I'm talking the fantastic book by Jack Kerouac, not my failed bike ride.  I recently learned that this book is being made into a movie, which I assume I'll watch and be frustrated that it wasn't as good as the book.  I try to re-read some of the classics during the summer, and wanted to re-read this book before we headed out to Denver last weekend (but forgot to swing by the library).  Hollywood seems to be mining the world of books for movie ideas, as The Rum Diaries was out last year, and On the Road and The Great Gatsby are coming up soon.

On the Road tells the story of young adults who criss-cross the country in search of adventure, love, and the meaning of life in the late 1940's.  While I enjoy traveling and want to visit all 50 states, I could never pack up everything I own to roam the country.  I'm just too practical for that.  However, this semi-autobiographical tale shares Kerouac's experiences in searching for adventure and something more significant in life.  He's able to capture the spirit of the Beat Generation, and tell a beautiful story in the process.

Another great read for summer, particularly with the movie coming out at some point in the future.  As always, please read books.  They're good.

Beer 225: Lambrucha is for Me!

Today I'm drinking a crazy mash-up of Belgian ale and kombucha.  It's brewed by Brouwerij de Troch and imported by Vanberg & Dewulf. De Troch is in Belgium and Vanberg & Dewulf is in Cooperstown (NY).

From the Vanberg & Dewulf website:

Lambrucha is the first time that two different types of live yeast drinks have been blended together to create a completely new live yeast beverage. Lambrucha combines hand-selected house Lambics that are a minimum of one year old, and specially brewed organic Belgian kombucha.  Kombucha has been enjoyed in Central Asia for millennia. A deliciously tart effervescent beverage is created by pitching a mushroom into tea and letting it ferment. Kombucha is renowned for its pro-biotic, health-giving benefits. Lambic is the legendary spontaneously fermenting beer from the Senne River Valley in Belgium. Lambic contains some 500 different yeasts. Lambic is the signature contribution to brewing science practiced for centuries in Belgium.

At 3.5% alcohol by volume, Lambrucha certainly is closer to beer than tea—but we think it makes more sense to describe it as “two great yeast cultures, one great drink.”

(From Marci) It poured an opaque straw color with tons of bubbles and a full white head. It smells like brine -- actually reminds me of pickled vegetables -- and a bit herbal.  The taste is some serious lemon tartness.  In the background, there's a green, grassy taste...maybe even something mint.  The high carbonation level leaves a crisp, clean feeling in my mouth.  

The Lambrucha is definitely a unique beverage and I would guess that not everyone is going to love it. I've never had anything that tastes quite like it but I'm already in love with it.  And at 3.5% ABV, it is very sessionable, which I'm about to do. I wonder how mad Gary is going to be when I go steal his glass?


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Apple (and Cherry) of My Eye

Beer #224 Anthem Cherry / Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, Salem, OR

Feeling pretty awesome after churning through a 24 mile bike ride this morning.  We bought bikes last fall, and I realized quickly that it had been roughly 20 years since I had rode a bike.  Basically, the minute I got my drivers license, my old ten-speed was officially retired.  But, as I continue to try and fight off middle age, cycling is a great way to do battle.  Each week, we're adding additional miles on, which I greatly enjoy.

Also helping me fight off middle age is the occasional cider.  Yes, this is without a doubt a beer blog, but when you think about it, ciders are just beers with different ingredients.  They can be equally as complex or refreshing as any beer you'll find.  There are some overly sweet varieties that most everyone is likely familiar with (which aren't all that great), but some craft cider producers are out there cranking out really interesting and enjoyable products.

With that in mind, I'm going with the Anthem Cherry today from Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, out of Salem, Oregon.  It has a garnet color with virtually no head, with a light, almost tart cherry aroma, which reminded me a bit of wine. The taste is light and refreshing, with crisp apple flavor and a nice cherry tartness coming through.  This is not overly sweet (which is a good thing), but is dry, mellow, and easy drinking, with a 6.2% ABV.  Could definitely see myself enjoying a few of these at night, sitting outside on the deck, wishing we had a fire pit.


If you're wondering about the brewery name (um, ciderworks), Wandering Aegnus is an old Celtic folktale about a man who wanders far to pursue a mystical woman who bewitches him.  Hopefully he brought along some cider for the journey.

Thing to Think About Today:
This cider is brewed with apples, and finished with a variety of cherries.  I have no idea how to tie that into something for you to think about today other than this video.  It does, thankfully, correct the glaring lack of hair band links on this site:

Beer 224: Wandering Aengus Cider

It's happy hour somewhere, isn't it? After hauling my sorry ass out of bed at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday to put in 24 miles on my bike and then running errands for the rest of the morning, think I deserve a mid afternoon beer...or cider.

The Anthem Cherry cider from Wandering Aengus Ciderworks is a magnificent cider.

It poured a bright and clear ruby color without any head. It smells like white wine, which is throwing me for a loop. Nothing about that color or the fact that it's made from apples would ever hint at such a dominant wine aroma. But there it is. Anthem is a traditional cider fermented on northwest cherries. It is tart -- very tart -- with just enough sweetness to make it delicious and quite easy to drink. There's underlying apple flavor with hints of cherry in the taste. It's super crisp. I love it.

Into the top 35 it goes! Cheers!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Beer is Insane (in the Membrane)

Beer #223 Harlan / Hill Farmstead Brewery, Greensboro Bend, VT

We've survived another week, and we're a few steps closer to the goal.  Survive and advance, my friends, survive and advance.  Not much planned for the weekend, although we're cramming in a 20+ mile bike ride, farmers market visit, trip to the Mini dealership, a trip to a new bottle shop in the area, a visit to Tired Hands and dinner with friends, and all of the remaining episodes of Breaking Bad at our disposal.  Okay, so maybe we have a few things planned here and there.

Today's beer is Harlan, an IPA from Hill Farmstead.  Had this one on draft at Teresa's Next Door, which was fortunate timing as there had been a Hill Farmstead event the day prior.  In the glass, it has a hazy straw color, with a fluffy white head, although that might be related to the fact I had the last beer in the keg.  Your nose picks up aromas of lemon and pine, and when you take a sip you get a dry hop bitterness, with lemon, grapefruit, and pine throughout.  There's an earthy quality in there, and this beer is unquestionable proof that fantastic IPAs are not the exclusive domain of the West Coast or Colorado.  Hits the right spot at 6% ABV, and I'm moving it into my Top 25 for the year.

Hill Farmstead has become a "cult brewer" (my phrase) over the past two years, building up an incredible reputation and devoted fan base in a short amount of time.  In an earlier paragraph, I mentioned that finding this beer on draft was fortunate - that's because any time a local bar taps something from this brewery, a swarm of beer geeks descends on the bar like a plague of thirsty locusts, devouring all the Hill Farmstead beer in their path.  As their production is limited, people have in fact started selling bottles of their limited releases on the web for hundreds of dollars (although, the brewery is working to put an end to this illegal practice).  If you see it on draft, drink it immediately.  Do not wait, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Thing to Think About Today:
Hill-related thing to go with your beer tonight, perhaps appropriate to kick off a Friday night?  Sure, why not!  Cypress Hill, the floor is yours:

Beer 223: Evil Genius Blind Eye P.A.

Look what followed me home today...

Sadly the Mini dealership wants it back tomorrow. But between now and lunch tomorrow, we are going to have a real good time together!

Look what followed Gary home from Whole Foods today...

32 ounces of beer for $5! Now that's a deal. This is 32 ounces of Evil Genius Beer Company's Blind Eye P.A.

I wish I had the chance to review another offering from Evil Genius because this IPA is too much for me. It poured a lovely amber color with just a bit of head. The aroma reminded me of candied fruit and smelled of cloves. The brewers describe this one as a Belgian IPA, which explains that. If you're into big hoppy beers, then I think this is a great beer. There's hops front, center and rear on this one. There's a strong citrus flavor among the hops and it also has a nice spice. This beer may not be for me, but I know a tasty beer when I taste one.

Cheers! I'm going to sit in my not-quite-mine Coupe.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Run, Forest, Run!

Beer #222 Saison Solaire / Forest & Main Brewing Company, Amber, PA

Not exactly sure how it isn't Friday yet - oh, wait, I know.  I have a five day work week here.  After a June and early July filled with vacation, I'm moving into the dog days of summer with some five day work weeks.  Small price to pay, as I end up saving vacation days to take off virtually every Friday with a home Penn State football game in the fall.  Soon enough, football season will be upon us, and not a minute too soon.

The beer for today is a local Pennsylvania product, the Saison Solaire from Forest & Main.  I had this one on draft at The Boilermaker, a bar that continues to impress me with their mix of craft beers on tap.  This saison poured a clear straw color, with a fluffy white head.  There are aromas of yeast and grain, and there are flavors of grain, a nice bit of peppery spice, with a dry, hoppy finish.  Very thin and easy drinking at 4.5% ABV, and I look forward to sampling other beers from this operation.

Hey, a decent picture from my phone from inside a dark bar!
First time for everything.
This brewery is an infant on the scene, as they've been open for less than a year.  Their home is an old Victorian house dating from the 1880's.  In case you're wondering where the brewery name came from, I can clear that up - they're located at the corner of Forest and Main in Ambler.  Truth in advertising!  Good luck and best wishes for a long, prosperous career.

Thing to Think About Today:
I think that it's only right if we're talking about a brewpub with Main Street worked into their name, we better stop and end the day with a cut from the greatest Stones album of all time, Exile on Main Street.  [Note: all Stones albums are great, but there can be no argument that Exile is the best of an amazing bunch.]  You've already seen Rocks Off in this space, so let's go with All Down the Line:

"You can't say yes and you can't say no / Just be right there when the whistle blows"

Beer 222: 3 Monts Grande Reserve

I am 100% addicted to Breaking Bad.  All this week it's been my singular focus.  Well that and beer, of course.  It's been all come home, eat dinner, write a post and glue myself to the television.  I imagine that season 4 will be in the bag in another couple of days and then it's a torturous year waiting for season 5 to be released on DVD or Netflix.  So with that in mind, here is your beer update for day 222.

We're visiting France on this review -- a country that doesn't scream beer to me.  The 3 Monts Grande Reserve from Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre is a biere de garde. It's a style that is becoming one of my favorites.  But this was no ordinary biere de garde...

Check out that set up. I've never seen anything like that.  It was a giant, and I mean GIANT, staple/hinge hybrid craziness.  It had dented the cork and I'm not sure if that was intentional or unintentional.  Lucky for everyone involved no one lost an eye loosening that contraption.

The 3 Monts Grande Reserve poured a not quite clear but not fully hazy amber liquid.  It had a very loose, slightly off white head and remnants of the head clung in puffy chunks all around the glass.  It smelled of sugar and malt and biscuits.  The taste was a bit peppery. It morphed into creamy malt with a bite at the end.  It also had some tart fruit notes and was just a tiny bit musty.  After all that it did manage to finish surprisingly crisp.

Realizing that my top 25 is now a top 35, I hesitate to add it to the list.  But I really, really enjoyed this beer. In it goes!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Heads Up!

Beer #221 La Blanche / Brasserie St. Feuillien, Le Roeulx, Belgium

With today's effort, we're now past the 60% mark on this blog!  Later this week/weekend, I'll do a rundown on who's in the Top 25 so far, biggest surprises, best new finds, and whatever else pops into my head.

Today's beer is the La Blanche from St. Feuillien, a brewery that I can't ever seem to spell.  The beer poured a hazy yellow color in the glass, with a thin white head.  The aroma gives off hints of flowers, citrus, and grass, and the taste has a balance of malt and hops, with banana and wheat, with a bit of spice thrown in as well.  It finishes with a smooth, clean finish.  Another Belgian, another great beer.  I somehow deleted my picture of this beer, so instead you get a picture of a sunset from Jenner, CA, where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean.  It's just like beer, in the sense that it's beautiful.

If you squint, you can see a beer out there.

This brewery has been in business since 1873, and is named for an Irish monk who was martyred and beheaded while preaching in the area.  Sucks to be you, pal.

Thing to Think About Today:
I suppose a beer with a citrus aroma brewed by a brewery named for a beheaded saint calls for.... what, I guess the Lemonheads?

Beer 221: Birrificio Bruton 10

Today is all Italian, all the time.  I'm just biding my time until my Italian dinner extravaganza hits the table. Gary is making the most delicious meatballs in the history of meatballs and his from scratch tomato sauce.  Perhaps I should not have drank the beer I'm about to review last night and saved it for tonight.  Oh still works in my Italian themed Wednesday evening!

This photo hates me.  It doesn't look like this
in the photo manager. Arghz!!!
Birrificio Bruton 10 is an Italian abbey ale.  It's also referred to as a double malt dark beer on the bottle's label.  It poured an almost black brown with a thick tan head.  It smelled vinous and rich.  The mouthfeel was very thick. I thought the label stated the ABV at 7.4% but everything I'm reading online is reporting 10% ABV.  Drinking it makes the alcohol very apparent so I'm going with 10%.  The aroma is of dark fruit and reminds me of port.  It's sweet and not at all bitter or hopped. 

I would classify it as a quadrupel despite what the label states.  Overall very good.  It's going in my top 25.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beer 220: Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale

Today's beer is the Boont amber ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. An interesting tidbit about the brewery is that it is solar powered. I guess when you're calling California home, you could do that sort of thing.

The Boont poured a very deep shade of amber with a thick and fluffy head. It left lots of lacing behind as I made way to the bottom of the glass. It smelled of caramel malts and a little nutty. The taste is full and smooth...lots of caramel malts...a touch of citrus hop bitterness. There was also another flavor in there. It reminded me of earl grey tea. It had a 5.8% ABV.

I really enjoyed this beer. That being said it doesn't make my top 25 but I would put it in my too 50.


Mambo Italiano

Beer #220 10 / Birrificio Brùton, Lucca, Italy

Today's beer is the 10, or Dieci, from Italian brewer Birrificio Brùton.  It pours a dark mahogany, almost black, color with a bit of tan, lingering head.  Your nose picks up the aroma of rich malt and stone fruits, and you get flavors of tobacco, toffee, leather, dark fruits, and a rather strong malt backbone.  Very complex, and quite potent at 10% ABV - I guess that's perhaps where the name comes from?  Almost seemed like more of a barleywine than a quad, but whatever you want to call it, it's quite good.

Sexy time.

From the Google translation of the website, it seems that Brùton is named for a beer that was brewed in Crete back in ancient times.  Or, maybe something like that - I really don't know, because the translation never comes out exactly right.  If you see something from this brewery, buy it, regardless of what the name means.

Thing to Think About Today:
I should have planned this better - tomorrow night I'm making my now-legendary meatballs and sauce for dinner, so I could have had an entire Italian thing going on at once.  Instead, I'll just go ahead and leave you with what most of America assumes life is like when you're Italian.  Yes, The Sopranos.  This ground breaking show paved the way for a gaggle of excellent cable shows (such as the all time best show ever, The Wire), and gave us an interesting perspective into New Jersey, "independent businessmen", creative problem solving, and the trash industry.  It also probably caused you to start cursing more in your personal and professional life (at least, I did).  While this clip is awesome, it isn't remotely safe for work, unless your employer loooooves profanity:

Monday, July 16, 2012

All About the Mojo

Beer #219 Mojo India Pale Ale / Boulder Beer Company, Boulder, CO

Today is a hustle day, as the last season of Breaking Bad is now available on Netflix, and I need to catch up super fast pronto.  One of the better, if not the best, shows on television today, and I don't want to wait any longer to see its awesomeness first hand.

Today's beer is Mojo, an IPA brewed by Boulder Beer.  I guess I can and probably should consider this a West Coast vacation beer, as I actually drank it during a layover in the Denver airport on our way to San Diego.  So, a "vacation" beer, even if we weren't yet at our final destination.  I had this out of the bottle at an airport restaurant, so no comments on aroma or color, unfortunately.  This IPA has a really nice hop bitterness right up front - definitely a strong hop profile here.  There's classic pine and grapefruit flavors, but you pick up malt in there too, along with a crisp, clean, dry finish.  If you're in the market for an IPA, this is a great one to take home.  

Drinking a beer, struggling to get wi-fi to work at DIA

Cool history behind Boulder, which bills itself as Colorado's oldest microbrewery.  Two Colorado U. professors started brewing back in 1979, and their original location was on a small farm that they shared with a few goats.  While it's only a seasonal release, if you ever spot Boulder's Killer Penguin, buy it immediately and without question.  It's a barleywine, and it's outstanding.  

Next time I'm in Colorado, I'm running the Manitou Incline.  You gain almost 2,000 feet in elevation in the span of a mile, which equates to a 41% incline grade.  It takes Olympic athletes almost 20 minutes to run this mile.  Who's with me?

Thing to Think About Today:
Let's think about Jim Morrison, also known as Mr. Mojo Risin (an anagram of his name).  If I'm going with the Doors, I'm going for a favorite deep cut, Love Street:

"I wonder what they do in there...."

Beer 219: Abracadabra Abraxxxas

Today's beer is the Freigeist Abraxxxas from Gasthaus-Brauerei Braustelle. I'm pretty sure I just mumbled and pointed when I tried to order this one. Lucky for me our waitress was on top of her game and understood my intentions.

It poured a hazy shade of orange with a thick white head. It smelled smoky and of tart citrus. The taste was smoke...almost ash-like in flavor. It was also quite tart, mostly lemon. No funky barnyard and hay that I usually find in a favored berliner weisse.

This is definitely a unique beer...quite unlike anything I've tasted so far in this adventure. Big shout out to TJ's in Paoli for putting it on draught. It's a ballsy move and I like it.

I'll leave you with this thought on Freigeist Abraxxxas. It tastes as if a berliner weisse met a rauchbier and magic happened. Abracadabra indeed.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Things That Suck: Airport Delays, This Beer

Beer #218 Orange Blossom Cream Ale / Buffalo Bill's Brewery, Hayward, CA

Writing this from the airport in Denver, as we sit and wait for our flight - and we're waiting a bit longer than originally planned, as there are weather delays back home.  Very good trip to Colorado, although far too short to really take advantage of everything the Rockies have to offer.  We did find a great spot to spread the ashes, at the headwaters of the Colorado.  A very scenic and serene spot by any measure, and I think my mother-in-law would have liked it very much.

I'm back into the regular rotation of beers now that I've updated all of the vacation beers.  After just adding four beers/breweries in four days to the Top 25 list, I'll go ahead and review one from the other end of the spectrum, the Orange Cream Ale from Buffalo Bill's Brewery.  We grabbed this one at Wegman's, based on the bottle artwork and promise of a cream ale, which I always enjoy.  It poured a pale straw color with virtually no head, and gives off a light aroma of oranges.  The taste is very light, with some grain, but you really notice the artificial orange taste.  Sort of like a frozen generic brand popsicle, only not as refreshing.  Or maybe it reminded me of children's chewable aspirin.  

There are better cream ales out there (see: Lancaster Brewing Company or Vertigo Brewing if you want fruit).  If you see this one, strongly consider running in the opposite direction.  It's for your own good.

Thing to Think About Today:
I think some John Denver goes without saying:

Beer 218: Alaskan Amber and No Roads Out

I scored another hard to find beer on the Denver trip. It's the Alaskan Amber -- an altbier from the Alaskan Brewing Company. Alt means old in German and this is a German style brown ale that is conditioned for longer than usual. The longer time conditioning leads to a mellower and less fruity beer.

The Alaskan Amber poured a deep amber color with a thin ring of white head. It smelled of bready malts and lightly of hops. The taste is smooth and this beer is very easy to drink. There is a lot of caramel in the taste and just enough hop to keep it from being boring.

Like I said this beer is a good get. Alaskan Brewing doesn't ship east of Colorado. Being brewed in Juneau, Alaska doesn't help with distribution either. Turns out there aren't any roads that connect it to the Lower 48 or even the rest of Alaska. And that's your information drop for the day.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Beer 217: Pinkus Muller Organic Jubilate

You know what makes you feel small and slightly inconsequential? The Rocky Mountains. We're in Colorado to spread my Mom's ashes on the one year anniversary of her death. That sucks. I'm also here with my sister and nephew to show off one of my favorite places. That's awesome.
Piece of advice...don't package your dead mother's ashes in scattering urns that look bizarrely like sticks of dynamite. It makes TSA suspicious.
Today's beer is from Brouwerij Pinkus Muller. Specifically their Organic Jubilate -- a German organic dark lager.

It looks like an unfiltered lager. Deep amber. Very hazy. It smells of sweet wine and caramel malts. The flavor is very malt focused and there are hints of honey as you drink it. At 5.1% ABV, it's easy to drink and very enjoyable.
Curious about the name? Organic Jubilate was first brewed in 1966 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Pinkus Brewery. And that's your knowledge for the day.