Breweries "Visited"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hear Him Howling 'Round Your Kitchen Door

Beer #326 The Bollocks / Brash Brewing Company, Ipswich, MA

Happy Halloween, loyal readers!  Keeping a low profile in the house tonight, as kids coming to the door to beg for candy drives the dogs completely mental.  And no one needs that (and kids really don't need one more piece of candy), so we're chilling with the downstairs lights off right now to avoid a dachshund meltdown.  I do in theory completely love Halloween - the idea of being someone else for a night or adopting an alter ego you may otherwise never get to be during the other 364 day is rather appealing.  Although, I do prefer adult Halloween, which of course involves copious amounts of drinking and girls in sexy costumes rather than neighborhood kids dressed up like soccer players roaming my street (HINT: it's not a costume if you use it every weekend in your soccer league, Timmy; be more creative!).

If I'm demanding an adult Halloween evening, then we're drinking beer - tonight I'm reviewing The Bollocks, a double IPA from Brash Brewing Company.  This beer is a daunting 12% ABV, and it pours with a honey amber color and a lingering white head.  The aroma is a pleasing (yet boozy) citrus, and the taste gives you pine, lemon, and a dry, bitter finish.  There's enough malt and floral notes in there to keep it honest, but make no mistake - this beer means business.  If you're a hops fan, find this one and order in moderation (see above; it's 12%, people).  Big shout out to TJ's for having this one on draft recently, and allow me to put a vote in to put this beer on tap more regularly.
Never mind the bollocks, this is a great beer!
Brash is a newcomer, having first released their product in July of this year.  Their site is very sparse when it comes to information, but as best I can figure, this brewery was started by a brewer who left Texas to find a more hospitable environment for craft brewing.  Glad to have this brewery up and running, wherever it might find itself located!

Thing to Think About Today:
Had we not been interrupted by Hurricane Sandy, I was intending to throw in some favorite Halloween items in this space - candy, movies, music, etc.  However, Halloween is upon us, so I'm just skipping ahead to my all time favorite Halloween song, Werewolves of London, by Warren Zevon.  Truth be told, this song makes me think about listening to John Cunningham play acoustic guitar during Friday night happy hour at the Cafe 210 West more than it makes me think of Halloween.  If I had a time machine, I'd definitely set the dial to head back to see JC playing at the Cafe a few more times.

And while we're on the subject of confessions, I admit people might not see this as a Halloween song, the way you might consider Thriller or Monster Mash.  Yet, it's a song about a werewolf, and werewolves are most certainly part of the Halloween canon, right up there vampires and zombies.  Therefore, it's a Halloween song, and it's your thing to think about today.  In conclusion, don't overdo the candy, and make sure to bring in some extra for me to work tomorrow, as I don't have any.  Thanks!

"You better stay away from him / He'll rip your lungs out, Jim."

Beer 326: Stevens Point Brewery

I'm currently playing Halloween Scrooge and not handing out candy to the neighborhood children and glowering at them from my darkened windows. We got burned by those darn kids the first year we moved into this house and I've never forgiven them. Why, you may ask?

Because I went all Martha Stewart that first year. I invested hours assembling individual bags of candy with cute little hand tied bows, decorating, redecorating after the squirrels ate my pumpkins, donning my best vampire teeth. And for what? All the kids trick or treated at 4pm and I got home from work at 6pm! Imagine how it makes my blood boil that there are scores of witches, ballerinas, Batmen and an Elmo running around at 8pm. Perhaps next year, my pretties!

And in one of the stranger transitions I've made on this blog, we're changing gears to talk Stevens Point Brewery and their Nude Beach summer wheat. It's brewed in Wisconsin and has an ABV of 5.1%.

It poured a hazy golden color with a very fluffy white head. It smells of yeast and bread and a little plastic wrap. Yeah, I thought that was odd too. The taste is watery and thin. Sweet orange. Grains. All together too thin.

The Nude Beach is average at best. Those are words I never thought I'd type. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beachfront Property?

Beer #325 Point Nude Beach / Stevens Point Brewery, Stevens Point, WI

Hurricane Sandy is moving out, and leaving behind a wide trail of destruction.  Thankfully, we were spared any significant issues - lost power for about ten minutes, and we have some branches down in the yard.  Nothing to write home about, which is great, as last night all you heard in our neighborhood was the wind howling and police/fire/ambulance sirens going off around the clock.  Obviously everyone wasn't so lucky, including a neighbor six houses down who is currently extracting a tree from their roof.  Best wishes to all of the blog readers out there for a safe and speedy recovery from the storm.

As I'm fairly sick and tired of rain, wind, and dreary weather, today I'm going to pretend it's summer again and sample a Point Nude Beach, a summer wheat beer from Stevens Point Brewery.  This one is a hazy, pale yellow color with a big white head.  You pick up the aroma of yeast, grain, and spice, and when you take a sip you find light citrus and a slight peppery spice, along with wheat and a hint of sweetness.  Great beer for summer - I could easily picture a case of this on ice for a baseball game or concert tailgate, or even a day at the beach.  And, if we see more hurricanes like the one that just blew through, I just might own some beachfront property here soon (sorry, New Jersey - you had your turn)!  To honor this beer, I hereby decree any beaches outside my door will be Nude Beach only.
Sexy time at the nude beach
Very cool history to this brewery, as they first made beer all the way back in 1857.  However, it wasn't until 1990 that their product was sold outside of Wisconsin - thankfully, they now distribute to Pennsylvania, along with much of the Midwest and East coast.

Thing to Think About Today:
Howling winds are gone, but it's still raining a good bit here.  Which begs the question, Why Does it Always Rain on Me?  Travis, the floor is yours.

"Why does it always rain on me?  Even when the sun is shining, I can't avoid the lightning..."

Beer 325: Elk Creek Crick

As we enter Day 2 of Hurricane Sandy, another thematic beer...this time it's the Elk Creek Cafe and Ale Works' Crick festbier.

First off, I can't even begin to guess what I did to make this photo so bad. I hadn't had anything to drink yet and it looks like I was half in the bag when I took this. Ugh.

Anyway the Crick festbier poured a nice dark brown with a thin tan head. It smells of woody hops. The taste is also woody with a good balance of malts and hops. It has a slight caramel sweetness. This is a good beer and one of the rare Oktoberfest beers I've had this year.

Elk Creek is located in Milheim, Pennsylvania. It's been a very Pennsylvania focused few days at the blog...perhaps because I'm afraid we'll be ocean bound soon.


Monday, October 29, 2012

While We Have Power....

Beer #324 East Coast Lager / Cricket Hill Brewery, Fairfield, NJ

Working from home today, but taking a break to blog while we still have power.  Hurricane Sandy has officially arrived, and from our spot in the suburbs of Philadelphia things are getting very real outside.  And by real, I mean real bad.  Winds have picked up, and the rain is coming down in buckets.  Did I mention that we live in a neighborhood prone to losing power?  Did I also mention our back yard likes to do an imitation of Lake Superior on days like this?  And have I mentioned our dogs HATE going outside in the rain, which means they're destined to forget the fact they're house broken today?  Awesome.  Who doesn't love a good hurricane?

While it's getting hectic here, it's likely worse in New Jersey.  So, while it's still there, today's beer will be from the Garden State - the East Coast Lager from Cricket Hill Brewery.  This lager pours with a clear, effervescent gold color.  You find the aroma of grain and barley, and the taste is clean, bready, with some nutty undertones.  A very sessionable beer at 4.2% ABV, if you're looking for something easy.
Need to drink all the beer before we lose power...
Cricket Hill has been in business since 2002, and they actively practice Reinheitsgebot, the Germany beer purity law.  Now you know.

Thing to Think About Today:
It seems I have more songs about hurricanes and rain than I care to count in the iPod.  So, let's just go ahead and leave something nice and mellow here for now.  Be safe, don't leave the house if you don't have to (unless you're bringing me beer or food).  Take it away Counting Crows.... let's be the Rain King today.

"If there's anyone at home at your place, why don't you invite me in?"

Beer 324: A Beer for Yinzers from Penn Brewery

I'm hunkering down in hurricane watch mode and cranking out a few blog posts while I'm still on the grid.

The Army of Dachshunds is packed and ready to flee the scene if we start taking on water. If there's one thing a dachshund doesn't like, it's rain.

I'm drinking a Rooney's Old Irish Style ale from the Pennsylvania Brewing Company. It's in honor of my friends in Pittsburgh who may see one heck of a nor'easter while we get swept out to sea thanks to Hurricane Sandy.

Sidebar: Has anyone else become irritated with the reporting of a 50-year storm every year? Isn't the definition of a 50-year storm one of such intensity that it's experienced only once every 50 years? At this rate, we're good for a couple of centuries.

The Rooney's poured a hazy dark brown with a light beige and thin head. It had a light nuttiness in the nose. That light nuttiness carried through to the flavor and accompanied a healthy dose of delicious malt. It was very easy to drink and had a nice, crisp finish. This is a good beer.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gone Fishing

Beer #323 Fish Tale Organic Blonde Ale / Fish Brewing Company, Olympia, WA

Well, things didn't quite go according to plan on Saturday, now did they?  Despite some awesome tailgating work put in, our efforts didn't translate to a win.  However, a day spent with great friends is one to cherish, so I'll choose to ignore the turd in the punch bowl that was the actual game.

To celebrate beer #323, allow me to reminisce for a bit.  You see, my first car was a gently used 1988 Mazda 323, which was a lovingly handed down to me by my Mom when she got a new car.  It had everything a sixteen year old kid needed - enough room to haul around some friends and a tape deck.  It was dependable (until the period of time when I had to jump start it every day to get it going) and fun to drive, and more importantly it gave me independence to go places and do things without having to rely on anyone else.  In essence, the road to adulthood started with the 323.  I have very fond memories of my old car, which got me around until junior year of college at which time Mom handed down a gently used red 1992 Mazda Protege.

I doubt I have any photos of it from back in the day, so here's a picture of a similar 323 I found courtesy of Google image search.  I seem to recall mine being a darker silver, but I really didn't feel like searching all day for the exact version.  Use your imagination.  It appears this car is for sale in Wichita, Kansas if you're in the market for a 24 year old import sedan.  Maybe I need a second car these days.....
Luxury (at least to a 16 year old) Automobile
Okay, enough time spent day dreaming, let's get down to business.  Today's beer is the Fish Tales Organic Blonde Ale from the Fish Brewing Company.  This beer has a hazy gold hue, and you're greeted with a floral aroma.  The taste is light (this beer is 4% ABV), with a tiny bit of sweetness, and hints of grain and apricot.  Nice beer for a warm summer day, say for example when you're washing your Mazda 323.  This beer is another example that people can order rather than a watered down macrobrew when they don't want something incredibly complex or boozy.
Fish food.
Fish has been brewing since 1993, and they produce multiple brands under their roof: the Fish Tale line, the Reel Ale line, Leavenworth Biers, and Spire Mountain Ciders.

Thing to Think About Today:
If we're thinking about Fish beers, let's go ahead and think about Phish, the jam band that formed all the way back in 1983, found national prominence in the 1990's, and has been touring seemingly ever since.  I never got too far into their work, as something about fourteen minute songs tends to make me stop paying attention.  That, and I didn't smoke six pounds of weed a day like most of the Phish fans I knew.  However, on a Sunday when we're starting to batten down the hatches in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, a little soothing jam might be just what the doctor ordered to relax.  Well, that and a beer.....

"For when my hand was holding hers / She whispered words and I awoke....."

Beer 323: Kane Brewing Company Malus

In honor of the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy, I'm reviewing a beer that is handcrafted in Ocean, New Jersey. Kane Brewing Company's Malus is an ale brewed with local apple cider and spices. It's also a limited release.

It smells spiced cider and a sour ale. It falls in the Belgian strong dark ale category and has an ABV of 9.5%.

From the bottle: inspired by a traditional Belgian style but redefined by locally sourced ingredients. Belgian candi sugar was replaced by local apple cider that is reduced in the brewery's kettle over several days. It's their inaugural bottling.

From what I can tell they launched in the summer 2011. If they keep making brews like this one, they'll be around for awhile.

The Malus poured a hazy, warm brown color with a tan head. The first sip is quite good. I will warn you that the higher ABV is very present. The flavor has a lot going on. It starts off sour apple. Then there's leather and spice. Then overripe fruit and bread. It finishes with just a little bit of bitterness. It also leaves a tartness at the back of my tongue. Not really dry but tangy.

It's very bubbly and champagne-like in its carbonation. This is a decidedly unusual beer, but I rate it great. Cheers!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Let's Go State!

Beer #322 Reprise Centennial Ale / 4 Hands Brewing Company, St. Louis, MO

As this post hits the interwebs, the tailgate will be going strong, getting everyone ready to cheer until we're hoarse.  Penn State has been playing with great confidence, so let's hope it pays off with a win!

The beer for today is the Reprise Centennial Ale, an amber from 4 Hands Brewing Company.  It pours with a dark amber color, and a lingering white head.  The aroma is of citrus and hops, and when you take a sip you get pine, lemon, a bit of malt, and a rather dry and bitter finish.  Checking in at 6% ABV, this is a very hoppy amber ale, and if you prefer things on the hoppier side, this beer is for you.
This brewery is located in the LaSalle Park neighborhood, and they also barrel age beers.  Now you know!

Thing to Think About Today:
Just leaving this out here..... one of the best games I've ever seen in person, and certainly the loudest crowd from pre-game to post-game.   We had a front row seat to the birth of Paternoville (and it will ALWAYS be Paternoville), which was amazing to see, and I sincerely hope the students are just as loud in 2012 as they were in 2005.

Beer 322: High Noon Saloon and Brewery

Game day, bitches! By the time you all read this, I'll be two hours into the best tailgate ever! Don't worry about me...I have deep fried peanut butter and jelly.

Today's beer of choice? The High Noon Saloon and Brewery Oregon Trail raspberry wheat ale. It's brewed in Leavenworth, Kansas, which is the start of the Oregon trail.

It poured a hazy golden color with a thin white head. It smells strongly of fresh raspberries. The ABV is 5.5%. It has lots of very nice raspberry flavor but is generally watery. It's as if someone left a bunch of ice in my glass and it melted and left this behind. It has potential but didn't quite make it. I'll call it average at best. Cheers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Beer 321: Finch's Beer Co. Golden Wing

I'm posting from the car so this is going to be short and sweet.

Finch's Beer Company is based in Chicago, Illinois. I had the fortune to find a can of their Golden Wing blonde ale (5% ABV).

It poured a hazy golden color with a white head. It smells a bit of banana. The flavor is very hoppy -- very much more than I expected for a blonde ale. There's also some bready yeast flavor and spice. The hops are a bit too dominant for me and it has a surprising bitter finish. I'll rate it average...I'm sure someone out there would enjoy a very hoppy golden ale; just not me.


Time to get Pump(kin)ed Up!

Beer #321 Pumpkin Lager Beer / Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI

After a week of running around like a fool, the weekend is finally upon us!  Working to pack the car and get ready to roll, so I'm jumping right in today.

Your beer for the day is the Pumpkin Lager from Lakefront Brewery in Wisconsin.  In the glass, this beer has a hazy light amber color, and your nose is greeted with the aroma of pumpkin and clove.  The flavor has a nice mix of spice, with a good balance of pumpkin.  It's bright, with a little bit of soft bitterness on the finish. Nice beer.  Not sure I'm ever going to convert to being a pumpkin beer fan, but this one certainly does the genre justice.  Check it out if you find it near you.
The Great Pumpkin / Liquid Form
Lakefront has been brewing beer since 1987, and their brewery tour is widely regarded as one of the best around.  If I'm ever back in Wisconsin, I'm stopping by to say hello (and drink tons of beer).

Thing to Think About Today:
Time to get a bit fired up... big game this weekend with the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes coming into Beaver Stadium on Saturday.  Let's get after it Seven Nation Army style...

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Beer #320 Barking Squirrel / Hop City Brewing Company, Brampton, Canada

After a tough workout on the basketball court tonight, there are 3,548 things to do before I shove off tomorrow, and I have approximately none of them done. A little hustle here, a little hustle there, and SHAZAM, we'll be good to go.  No worries.  This weekend is huge, and I intend to come up big.

So let's hustle along, but not before we stop and talk about tonight's beer, the Barking Squirrel, an awesomely named lager from Hop City Brewing in Canada.  Completely irrelevant note: when I was in college, I would grab a plastic cup of cereal and some milk and eat it for breakfast while I walked to class.  If I was feeling good, I'd stop and feed some to the squirrels.  There are no more friendly/aggressive squirrels in the world than in State College, PA.  You carry food on campus..... they'll find you.

Anyway, this beer pours with a bright, copper color and a thin white head.  There's an aroma of sweet malt, and the taste brings you a nutty flavor, with some light caramel, grain, and malt.  Clean, dry finish with some mild bitterness.  Really nice beer, and I would love to pair this one with a bacon cheeseburger.  Please bring me a bacon cheeseburger as soon as possible.
Hop City, bitch.
I freely admit that I was hoping for a super hoppy IPA from a brewery named Hop City.  However, I'll give them a pass this time.  Whoever did the graphics and branding on the packing and website should get a hug - they did an awesome job.

Thing to Think About Today:
If we're talking about Barking Squirrels.... yeah, I don't have much there.  What about if we stop and think about the quirky second cousin to the Barking Squirrel - the Modest Mouse?  Let's all Float On, peoples.  See you tomorrow.

What, you thought I was going to go with Rack City here to pay homage to Hop City?  Yeah, I could have, but didn't.  Next time....

Beer 320: Hop City Brewing and a Squirrel Tale

I have Penn State on the brain so I'll share a college tale with you. It's no secret that I'm not a morning person. So one Wednesday morning in college, I'm heading to a late morning class with my to-go breakfast in hand -- a Nature Valley granola bar. I'm snacking away as I hike across campus and as I get to the HUB (student union building for those of you not in the know), I notice a faint chirping/barking behind me.

I glance over my should and there's a good sized squirrel following me. As I pass through a thicket of students, this squirrel starts running circles around me as I attempt to walk as nonchalantly as possible to class. This goes on for two entire blocks. Me dodging students and bikes in an effort to shake my stalker. That squirrel barking at me in hot pursuit. He was persistent.

I throw a piece of granola bar -- my breakfast, mind you -- a few feet behind me and pick up the pace. That damn squirrel grabs the meager offering and let's me know exactly what he thinks of it. At this point I am mortified. People are stopping and pointing at me. Pointing! The horror!

Nature Valley puts two granola bars in each pack so I looked down at my remaining granola bar and made a decision. The squirrel gets his prize. I hurled that delicious breakfast treat right at his head and hustled away. The little bastard grabbed it, ran ahead of me and plopped himself on a trash can lid and nibbled away. I swear he smiled at me when I walked past.

He looked oddly like the squirrel on the Hop City Brewing can.

Look at him! All cocky. Eyeing his prize.

Hop City Brewing Company is based in Brampton, Ontario and the Barking Squirrel is their (5% ABV) lager. It poured an amber color with a fluffy off white head. It smelled of grain and reminds me of Yuengling lager.

The flavor had a slightly fruity hop but was mostly malt. It's nice and mild and quite sessionable. I think it would be great for tailgates. This is a good beer.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Great Kazoo

Beer #319 Saison Cazeau / Brasserie De Cazeau, Templeuve, Belgium

Busy week, as there is much to get done between now and Friday afternoon, when we again depart for State College.  Need to hit a board meeting tonight, so I'll just get down to business.

The beer for today is Saison Cazeau, a farmhouse ale from Brasserie De Cazeau in Belgium.  As you can see from the pic, this bottle has more of a springtime feel than an autumn feel.  However, good beer is always in season!  When you pour this one, you see a hazy gold with a dissipating white head.  The aroma has yeast and biscuit along with floral notes, and the taste has nice peppery, earthy flavors, with hints of lemon.  If you like saisons, this is an excellent choice.  Find it, drink it.
Bottle says spring, beer says all year
This brasserie stretches back to 1753, although there was a hiatus from brewing from 1969 to 2004.  Tons of history of the brewery available on their site, if you're into that sort of thing.  They also have a cool logo, so there you go.

Thing to Think About Today:
If we're drinking a Cazeau, I'm going ahead and assuming it's pronounced "kazoo."  Kazoo, indeed.  Therefore, let's let this awkward kid rock out on something or another called the "Kazookeylele" and see where it takes us.  Apparently, it's taking us to the Final Countdown.  Until next time, dear friends.

Beer 319: Three Things and a DuClaw Venom

Random thoughts...

1. I want Penn State to win Saturday's showdown against Ohio State so bad I can taste it. I can't remember a time that I've been so emotionally invested in a game. I haven't been able to focus on anything else this week. I'm reading Onward State, watching press conferences, following everyone remotely related to Penn State on twitter...I'm on overload now. I'm going to lose my mind between now and 5:30pm on Saturday.

2. You must go download Weather Puppy right now. It delivers weather conditions with adorable dog photos. For example:

3. Tomorrow is my Mom's birthday. It's weighing heavily on me.

Finally go drink a DuClaw Brewing Company Venom. It's a great beer.

DuClaw is based in Maryland. This is the description of Venom from their website: This American-Style Pale Ale is aggressively hopped giving it a citrusy flavor and aroma. No antidote needed. This beer is dark-golden, medium-bodied and very “hoppy.” It is American-style because American-grown hops are used rather that European.

Me, Gary and the bartender at TJ's all thought this was the nuttiest American pale ale we've ever had. In fact in my notes, I wrote down it's better billed as a nut brown ale or English brown ale.

It poured a red-tinged brown ale with a fluffy white head. It smells distinctly nutty. Something in the aroma reminded me of a little if bretannomyces...just a little funky. That nut aroma translated to the flavor and was very dominant. There was also a mineral chalkiness to the mouthfeel and taste. This is by far that maltiest American pale ale I've ever had. It was delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm just not sure if it was supposed to taste like this.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shakes from the Crypt

Beer #318 Cryptical / Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet, VA

Another basketball game tonight, another loss.  Hey, at least I'm burning calories, right?  I think I need to make up for all that over-exertion by eating all of the food in the fridge for dinner.  OH WAIT, THAT'S RIGHT.  Courtesy of some recent beer/brewery stockpiling, there's legitimately no room in the fridge for food.  I mean, there's some food, if we're counting condiments, pickles (homemade!), and cheese as food - which I often do.  If not.... yeah.  I'm occasionally a terrible grown up.  I admit this freely.

I'll punish myself for my lack of positive adult role modeling by reviewing Cryptical, an Imperial Stout from Starr Hill Brewery.  This one has a dark black hue, with a thick tan head.  Your nose finds a smoky, toasted malt aroma, and the taste is bitter, with burnt malt and tons of smoky flavor.  Clean and dry finish, and brings a 7.5% ABV to the party.  If you're looking for a potent stout with tons of smoky, toasty malt, look no further.  If you're not looking for that, why on Earth are you considering ordering an Imperial Stout?
Looks like it tastes.
This brewery has been a player in the Charlottesville, VA since 1999, and moved to a larger facility just outside of town in 2005.  Check it out next time you're in the neighborhood.

Thing to Think About Today:
Seeing how Halloween is nearly upon us, I thought I might tie in a Tales from the Crypt reference in here, but I'm really not a big fan of the horror genre.  So... if we're talking Cryptical.... yeah... it's time for Mystikal!  See what I did there?  I highly don't encourage you hitting this video at work, unless your employer really, truly likes it when you Shake Ya Ass.

"Shake ya ass... but watch ya' self!"

Beer 318: Fox Barrel Ciders, No, 4 Hands and Beer-cation Part Deux

I have developed a serious case of wanderlust. The idea of traveling and seeing a new part of this country is like a drug lately. Next up is Austin, Texas for four days. Flights are booked. Hotel is confirmed. An itinerary is in development. Of course the trip will be beer-centric. So if you have any Texas-based recommendations for can't miss breweries or Austin-based dining or culture experiences, share them.

My first two orders of business on this trip is a visit to Jester King and cowboy boots. I'm not sure which one is more exciting!

Now keeping with my very autumnal beer selections this week, tonight's drink of choice is the Fox Barrel blackberry pear cider. And this is where I curse. Turns out that Fox Barrel Ciders is the pear cider making operation that is directly related to Crispin Ciders. And guess what? I reviewed Crispin on September 16. I haven't done that to myself in a good long time.

If you care, here are my notes from Fox Barrel. 5% ABV. Based in California. Very still. Bright rosy red color. Smells of blackberries and very ripe fruit. Tart and semi dry. Fruity but not sweet. Great.

And now I'm out of autumnal options. Let's talk 4 Hands Brewery and their Reprise Centennial red ale. It is an American red ale with an ABV of 6% that's brewed in Missouri. If I'm interpreting the description on their website, the Reprise is brewed with just the centennial hop. If that's true, that centennial hop is one potent mother.

The Reprise was billed as a hoppy red ale and it delivered. It poured a reddish brown ale with a loose but thick off white head. The scent reminded me of citrus pith. The flavor was fruity esters. This is a big, bold flavorful beer and I'll rate it a great.

One final thought. Is it odd that every review I currently have stockpiled is of beer I found at TJ's? Perhaps I'm going to start forwarding my mail there. Cheers!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Beer 317: Lakefront Brewery and More Pumpkin Beer

I'm going from no pumpkin beers to two pumpkin beers in a row.  Watch out!

Today's pumpkin beer - a pumpkin lager beer to be exact (6% ABV) - is from Lakefront Brewery, Inc. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Yesterday an ale. Today a lager. What can I tell you about this one? I know it was bottled during the first week of July thanks to the handy chart on the side of the label.

It poured a hazy orange color. It looked much more appealing that yesterday's pumpkin ale.  This one had little to no head at all. It smells of fresh pumpkin and nutmeg. The flavor is quite nice. After yesterday's disappointment, I'll admit I was a bit gun shy about another pumpkin beer.  The Lakefront was full of natural pumpkin flavor with a good amount of spice.  The spices are peppery with some cinnamon and nutmeg but are very well blended with the beer characteristics. I still get good beer flavor through the pumpkin and spice. For as unbalanced as the Shipyard tasted, this one is perfectly balanced. Interestingly there is something to the Lakefront pumpkin lager that reminds me of mulled wine.

Lakefront has a pretty interesting history -- they brewed the first fruit beer after Prohibition!  This is a great beer. Cheers!

High on the Hog

Beer #317 Hop Hog / Lancaster Brewing Company, Lancaster, PA

Hustle day today; need to get some things done before I can unwind for the evening.  So let's get right down to business and keep the wheels turning on this beer adventure.  

Today's beer is the Hop Hog, an IPA from Lancaster Brewing Company.  Sure, when you think of Lancaster County, you think of Amish Farms, but you also need to keep this brewery in mind as well.  The Hop Hog pours with a bright amber color and lingering white head.  You find a nice citrus and hop aroma, and the taste has an even balance of malt and hops, with notes of lemon and hints of tea, with a nice dry, bitter finish.  Great beer to pair with a pizza, which is what I did when drinking it post-basketball last week.  Score.  If you're looking for a nice, well balanced IPA that doesn't overdo the hops, grab a Hop Hog.
High on the Hog
If you're ever in the space between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, you definitely need to visit this brewery, which has been in business since 1995.  One of the best sampler pours I've ever seen - on par with the expansive sampler at Tommyknocker Brewing, although still trailing behind Russian River, which is the Holy Grail of huge sampler pours.  Good food, too!

Thing To Think About Today:
Let's keep the music of the 90's humming along, and connect a little Hop Hog with a dose of Spacehog.  It's time for In the Meantime:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Not a Beer to Fall For

Beer #316 Pumpkinhead Ale / Shipyard Brewing Company, Portland, ME

Another weekend in the books, thankfully filled with more picture perfect weather.  Closed things out today with another trip to the yoga dojo and a road trip to swap beers with a friend who had some hard to find beers in stock.  Apparently, through Instagram he has joined an underground network of people trading hard to find beers.  They may also be able to set you up with a mail order bride, illegal firearms, and erectile dysfunction pills without a prescription.  You just need to know their secret password, I think.

After drinking a D.L. Geary yesterday, today I'm drinking a second beer in a row from Maine, the Pumpkinhead from Shipyard Brewing.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven't caught the pumpkin beer fever that has been sweeping the craft beer scene each of the past few autumns.  There are some decent ones out there, but I don't go out of my way to find them.  But, in the spirit of the season, I decided to dive in and try one.  This beer pours with a clear gold color and a wispy white head.  There's a light aroma of nutmeg, and the taste is light, with some flavors of pumpkin.  It's not an overpowering beer to begin with, and what little pumpkin and spice that are on board are content to also sit quietly and not make much noise.  If you're looking for a good pumpkin beer, I suggest looking elsewhere.  If you want a light beer that has a hint or two of fall without much in the way of flavor or complexity, go ahead and buy this one.
I do like the Ichabod Crane-esque logo
So, not a winner, but it was probably doomed from the start due to my general "meh" attitude towards pumpkin beers.  In some ways, I do find that odd, as fall is my favorite time of year, and Halloween and Thanksgiving are my two favorite holidays.  We do have an Imperial Porter from Shipyard's Signature Series in the beer cellar, so we'll definitely be circling back to this brewery again in the future.

Thing to Think About Today:
If it's a beautiful fall day, why don't we stop and think about fall.  Going back to the college days to drop in some Toad the Wet Sprocket for their hit song, Fall Down.  Enjoy fall while we have it, but go easy on the pumpkin beers, dear friends.

Beer 316: Shipyard Brewing Co.'s Pumpkinhead Ale

Things I found in my purse after cleaning it out today:

- 14 paperclips
- 6 balled up receipts
- 5 ponytail holders
- $3.62 in change
- 3 empty prescription containers
- about 25 business cards that escaped from their holder
- about 50 menu cards
- bracelet, necklace and ring
- rusty binder clip (how did it get rusty?)
- enough Band-Aids to start an urgent care center

This was in addition to the usual wallet, keys, notepad, make up bag. And I wonder why my shoulder hurts when I carry my bag for awhile.

How do I reward myself for getting that bag cleaned up and organized? With a subpar beer. Sometimes, Marcella, sometimes...

I'm going into this whole pumpkin beer season with a bit of bias. I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie, but I do enjoy pumpkin roll. So I figure that I'm bound to enjoy one of the pumpkin beers currently lurking in my fridge, right? Wrong.

I went with Shipyard Brewing Company's Pumpkinhead Ale. It poured a deep golden color with very little head. It smells like a pilsner with fall spices. But both scents came across very distinct and not very appealing. The taste is very disjointed. It starts out very bland, almost corn flavored and turns to overwhelming pie spice. Nutmeg, cinnamon...not good at all.

This is a poor beer. Cheers to hoping for better luck tomorrow.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Beer #315 Geary's Pale Ale / D.L. Geary Brewing Company, Portland, ME

Good Saturday to you all!  It's another gorgeous fall day here in our 'hood, which we took advantage of by getting the dogs out the dog park to run around.  All went swimmingly until Picasso joined a cabal which was trying to eviscerate another dog.  In his defense, it's a bad call for a dog owner to try and bring a puppy to a dog park, particularly one that has issues with socialization.  Thankfully, everyone escaped unscathed, and a beautiful afternoon was not ruined.  Special added Saturday bonus?  After not carrying kirby cucumbers all year, my grocery store magically had some available today.  Rather late in the season (I guess I should thank global warming?) for homemade pickles, but I have one more batch underway right now.  Damn good day.

Good days require good beer, and today I'm going with a Geary's Pale Ale, from D.L. Geary Brewing.  In the glass, this beer shows off a clear copper color and a lingering white head.  Your nose picks up a floral aroma, with grass and malt, and when you take a sip you find lemon, sweet malt, and tea, with a nice, dry mild bitterness on the finish.  Thin and easy (hey, just like me!), this beer is a keeper.  If you see it, drink it.
I should talk to them about calling it "GARY'S". 
D.L. Geary has been a long time contributor to the craft beer scene, having opened their doors all the way back 1983, which was without a doubt the infancy of the U.S. craft beer movement.  David Geary spent time learning the trade in England and Scotland, and I think that shines through in this beer.

Thing to Think About Today:
College football rivals Cal and Stanford squared off today, and I'm sure there were plenty of highlights and great plays.  In the world of sports, spectacular plays happen every single day, without fail.  However, once in a blue moon, the planets and stars align just so to give us a highlight beyond comprehension, a play that transcends sports and becomes bigger than the game itself.  Thirty years ago, one such play happened in the college football universe, and is so well known for it's chaotic and miraculous ending it is simply referred to as The Play.
Oddly, they're both wearing helmets
Back in 1982, future Hall of Famer John Elway marched his Stanford squad down the field for a last second field goal to take the lead over Cal and lock up bragging rights for a year.  Well, not exactly last second - four seconds remained.  All Stanford had to do was kick off, tackle the kick returner, and then head to the locker room to celebrate.  Only problem?

Only problem was no one told Cal the game was over.  In a play that needs to be watched multiple times to be believed, their kick return squad morphed into a rugby team, using five backward laterals to keep the ball alive and moving down the field.  While this was going on, the Stanford Band started wandering onto the field for their post-game concert, only to find themselves as part of the madness of the final play.

Keep in mind this was before the era of instant replay - to this day, there are questions about whether certain runners were down and whether certain laterals were legal.  Both sides thought they won, and when the refs gave the final nod to Cal, a legend was immediately created.  I recall seeing this highlight as a kid and being completely mesmerized.  I still am thirty years later.

"The most amazing, sensational, dramatic....heart wrenching... exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!!!!"

Beer 315: Brasserie de Cazeau and Yoga Life

I'm practicing yoga at a new studio. It is decidedly more laid back and mom-oriented than my last studio. First class was basic. Like so basic I didn't come close to breaking a sweat and was bored out of my mind. This morning's class was much better. How do I know? The shoulder and arm work has rendered my arms nearly useless. That's how.

I'm hoping my arms hold out until after the PSU game tonight. I have some beers to drink. In the meantime I'll tell you about an interesting saison.

It's the Saison Cazeau aux fleurs de sureau. That last part means with elder flowers. This one is brewed at Brasserie de Cazeau in France. The brewery began in 1753, took a hiatus in 1969 and came back to life again in 2004.

It poured a hazy dark lemonade color with a loose white head. it smelled a bit like a sour ale, yeasty and lemony. The taste had a lot going on. Spices, yeasty twang, buttery and a hint of mint. The only thing didn't care for was some metallic taste every so often. Overall it was nice and crisp with lots of flavor. I'll rate it a good.


Friday, October 19, 2012

'Cause It's Friday....

Beer #314 Double Pale Ale / Shawnee Brewing Company, Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA

It's the weekend, and you can't possibly be interested in reading about little old me.  I kid; of course you are.  However, I won't slow down your Friday night with my tales of work and plans for the weekend (hint: yoga!), so let's go ahead and get down to business.

Tonight's beer is the Double IPA from Shawnee Brewing Company.  This one was on draft at Pinnochio's, a pizzeria/beer garden in Media, PA.  It pours a hazy light amber, with a thin head.  You pick up an aroma of citrus and some light malt notes.  There are flavors of lemon and some toffee, with a nice bitter finish.  Despite being 7.5% ABV, this beer is rather easy drinking.  From the brewery website, it appears they're working on a kriek beer, which I very much look forward to sampling.
Please ignore
This brewery sits near the Delaware River, and sits on the ground of the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort.  Now you know.

Thing to Think About Today:
"I'm gonna get you high today, 'cause it's Friday.  And you ain't got no job.  And you ain't got shit to do!"

And with that sentence, you get the essence of the movie Friday, a tale of two guys hanging out in South Central L.A., spending their day doing... well.... not a whole lot.  Sound like an amazing movie?  No, when you put it that way, probably not.  Yet it's an absolutely hilarious film - starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker - and one I clearly need to re-watch as soon as possible.  'Cause it's Friday.....

Beer 314: Brash Brewing and Black Tie Quizzo

You know you're entirely too comfortable with a bar when you randomly show up in a floor length gown on Quizzo night and don't give a damn. Yes, if any of you were at TJ's last night, I was the one in the purple floor length gown. And I suppose I could have just said gown and you would have known it was me...not like I had competition from someone in a red gown for example.

You may be wondering why I went formal on Quizzo night. Let's just say the food at the gala I attended earlier in the night was meat-centric and practically nonexistent and I had the chance to knock off another brewery if I hit my favorite bar. End of story.

What I didn't realize is that The Bollocks from Brash Brewing weighed in at 12%! Holy mackerel! It was probably the last thing I needed after a few glasses of wine and champagne. 

The Bollocks is an imperial IPA. It poured a hazy amber color. It really wasn't as orange as this photo indicates. It had a thin head but left lots of lacing behind. It smelled strongly of caramel, which carried through to the taste. There were lots of fruit-forward hops (most notably citrus) in the flavor as well.  

I didn't find much information on this brewer other than they exiled themselves from Texas due to ridiculous beer laws and made a new home in Ipswich, Massachusetts. It looks like they've only been producing there since July 2012. So far I'm impressed. This is a good beer.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beer 313: Manayunk Brewing Company's St. Alpha

Who would have guessed that a bar I frequented 14 years ago as a regular Friday or Saturday night hang would deliver a pretty tasty beer for my beer blog today? Not me. I couldn't tell you the last time I set for in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia, let alone the premises of the Manayunk Brewing Company.  Was their beer this good 14 years ago? If so, why did I waste all that time drinking margaritas there? 2012 Marci needs to go back and slap 1998 Marci. Sheesh.

Thankfully Manayunk Brewing Company distributes their beer in the area and I found this one one draught at Pinocchio's Beer Garden in Media (Pennsylvania).  FYI...Pinocchio's has a substantial list of draught beers and an impressive bottle shop. Be warned. The great selection of individual bottles of beer is nearly overwhelmed by the insane layout of the bottle shop. It made me want to pull my hair out. Long, narrow space. Coolers on one side. Cashier and walk up bar on the other. Too many people milling about drinking. Why weren't they in the bar drinking? I just wanted to shop and hit the road and, man, that was a challenge.

But I digress. The St. Alpha is a hybrid of two different styles -- a Belgian and an IPA.  From Manayunk's website, I learned that it contains ingredients from both sides of the pond. Aromas of apricot and banana from the Belgian yeast combine with the piney, citrusy aroma of American hops to create a wonderfully complex bouquet. This golden-colored ale's taste is dominated by the assertive bitterness of the hops while maintaining a balance that will please fans of both Belgian and hoppy American styles of beer. 8.5% ABV, 65 IBUs.

Here's what I thought.  It poured a light golden honey color with very little to no head. The aroma is fruity but I didn't pick up on any banana.  The banana comes out in the taste for me. There was also some nice black pepper dancing about. The flavor also revealed some resinous hops. Pine is a pretty dominant taste. I wrote in my notes that it is a very hoppy Belgian. A bit unusual but quite good.


James Bond, I'm Not

Beer #313 Venom / DuClaw Brewing Company, Bel Air, MD

I know you come here for good information on craft beer.  You probably also visit to expand your horizons courtesy of our 'Thing to Think About' each day.  Allow me to help serve another purpose: to serve as a cautionary fashion tale.  Please heed the following advice:

When you want to buy a new tuxedo shirt, DO NOT give away your old one to Goodwill until you actually buy the next one.

Why is this advice important?  Happy to answer that - I need to be at a black tie event tonight, and when I was getting my tuxedo out this morning (no, I don't wear it every day even though I want to), I realized that I gave my old tuxedo shirt away, as I wanted to get a new one before my next formal function.  Except, I forgot that fact leading up to tonight's event.  CRUD.  Thankfully, Brooks Brothers came to the rescue by having a fresh, new 17 1/2 neck 36 sleeve tuxedo shirt waiting for me at their store today.  I'll close with this advice as well:

Brooks Brothers.  Always, without fail.

Now, before I steam the wrinkles out of this new shirt, allow me to review tonight's beer, Venom, an American Pale Ale from DuClaw Brewing, down in Maryland. You see a hazy amber in the glass, and the aroma is filled with malt, and the taste gives you a nutty, earthy flavor.  There's bitterness, but not much in the way of citrus.  While this wasn't a bad beer, and in fact I quite liked it, it didn't strike me as a traditional APA.  Not bad, just not expected.  I'll definitely be on the lookout for some of DuClaw's other offerings.
Pretty, no?
While a dewclaw refers to a vestigial digit on a dog's paw, DuClaw is more of a play on words related to the popularity of all things crabs near the Chesapeake Bay.

Thing to Think About Today:
I have nothing going in my head to tie this brewery into something witty, so I'll just blast off into the night with a song that I've recently illegally downloaded added to the iPod.  Beggin', by Madcon.  And to all, a good night.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Beer #312 Hop-A-Lot-Amus/ River Horse Brewing Company, Lambertville, NJ

Today was one of those fast and furious days, where I bounced from meeting to meeting to meeting and never really had a chance to do all of the work that tends to pile up on any given day.  Can't win 'em all.

To unwind today, I'm going with a double IPA from River Horse Brewing.  This beer has a dark amber hue, with a thin white head.  The aromas of malt and pine shine through, and you pick up flavors of lemon and pine with some sweet malt, and a very welcome hop bitterness on the finish.  Nice beer, and I would definitely like to sample some of the other beers River Horse creates.
Disembodied hippo? Check.
From the brewery website: "We were finance geeks living in a world without soul.  Grinding it out everyday for a fee, wearing suits and kissing butt."

Now why does that sound familiar?

Thing to Think About Today:
I've already used this space to talk about Flight of the Conchords, the New Zealand folk-ish duo who had a hilariously awkward and awkwardly hilarious HBO series a few years back.  One of my favorite tracks plays right into tonight's beer - their absurd but funky Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros; check the live version below for a few laughs... preferably while you're drinking your Hop-A-Lot-Amus.

"They call me the Hiphopopotamus, my lyrics are bottomless"

Beer 312: Starr Hill Cryptical

I mention TJ's Restaurant pretty often on this blog. But I don't benefit from my mentions - I just love the place.  The food is good. The selection of beer is mind blowing. Their social media skills are outstanding. I know what's on and what's kicked pretty much up-to-the-minute. When you're on the hunt for new breweries - not just new beer - this is mission critical information.  Now if the fine folks over at TJ's were to offer some benefit for singing their praises, I probably wouldn't and really couldn't refuse. (Typed using my best Godfather impersonation.)

Take for example the Starr Hill Brewing Company. I never heard of this brewery until I picked up a tweet that it was tapped at TJ's. Off to the bar we go and I get to check another brewery off the list.  As an aside, I'm now seeing Starr Hill everywhere.  Based on this beer, I'll definitely be trying other varieties.

The Cryptical imperial stout has an ABV of 7.5%. It poured a deep chocolate brown...almost black and had a thick tan head that didn't stick around for very long. While the head didn't last, it did leave plenty of impressive lacing behind. It smells roasted and malty. Exactly what I expected to encounter.  The taste is smokey and kind of reminds me of bacon.  Keep in mind that the writer of that statement hasn't had bacon since 1985 so she may be completely off her rocker on that particular assessment. It has a smooth consistency which makes it eminently drinkable. This is a nicely balanced stout and I'll give it a good rating.  


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Manayunk? Maniac!

Beer #311 St. Alpha / Manayunk Brewing Company, Philadelphia, PA

My news from yesterday evening: I went to a yoga class.  No, there's not some bar nearby called "Yoga Class", although that would be a decent bar name.  I actually did yoga.  I mean, it was crazy beginner level stuff, so I didn't bend myself into a pretzel while standing on one hand, but still.  A brief recap of the experience:


  1. The instructor's voice was like that of a hypnotist - sooo soothing and peaceful.
  2. I was able to hide in the back, so no one could see how bad I am at yoga.
  3. I was the handsomest person there, by an overwhelming margin.  Not hard to do in a class of 15 people, when only two of them are guys.
  4. Got a decent (albeit non-aerobic) workout in, hitting some muscles I haven't bothered with in ages.
  5. We ended with like 15 minutes of cool down/quiet time.  Just chilling in the dark, lying there, relaxing. pretty sure I zonked out for a few minutes.  Work has been chaotic lately, and I really appreciated the peacefulness of it all.


  1. Frequent and absurd references to Eastern medical ideals, such as chakras.  Every time the instructor said something about this word or the idea of light sources and energy centers within my body, all I heard in my head was the dulcet mumble of Charlie Brown's teacher.  Wah wah wah chakra wah wah.  
  2. Forced to confront the fact that I'm really, really, really inflexible.  I guess that doesn't get fixed unless I do more yoga.
  3. Was expecting more sexy females in super sexy yoga pants.  Not so many in class last night.  Hey, what do you want from me - I'm human.

On the whole, yoga was a winner.  Will I ever go vegan and start discussing discord within my third chakra?  If I do, please run me over with your car.  However, I will go back to yoga again for some additional classes.  For those who are keeping score (me), I've lost about 10 pounds since starting this blog, mostly due to being able to exercise a bit more this year now that I'm over some nagging injuries which kept me from running last year.  I intend to keep them off, and lose 10 more by this time next year.  More yoga then!

To celebrate (and regain some masculinity), let's talk beer.  Tonight's brew is the St. Alpha from the Manayunk Brewing Company, in nearby (wait for it) Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia.  This Belgian IPA pours a clear copper color, with a dissipating white head.  I picked up a nutty, grainy aroma, and the taste is a mix of lightly toasted malt, with earthy flavors and a good bit of citrus and plenty of hop bitterness.  You definitely taste the alcohol in this one, which just so happens to be 8.5% ABV.
Looks like beer.
This brewery opened up shop in an old textile mill that dates back to 1822.  It's been open as a bar and restaurant since 1996, and a fair bit of my early twenties were spent drinking in Manayunk at this bar or others on the weekend, because that's what all the cool kids in and around Philly did on the weekend.  Good times, good times.

Thing to Think About Today:
I'm really tempted to just play the Carpenters again in this space, but let's mix it up.  How about a music video that looks very much like what my yoga workout looked like last night?

Okay, so that wasn't exactly what my yoga workout looked like, but I don't think there are any good songs out there about yoga.  If so, feel free to let me know.... I'm back in the yoga dojo on Saturday!  I'm a maniac.....

Beer 311: Smuttynose Robust Porter

Evidently I turned over a new leaf on Saturday and didn't realize it. I went for a run for the first time in a long, long time. Granted it was day 1 of the Couch to 5K program or what I once accidentally called the Couch to Potato program. Sunday I managed to get on my bike for the first time since this football season began and then last night I hit a yoga class with Mr. Blog Named Brew. He seems to have liked it.

I'm taking today off because my abs and quads are mounting a revolt. But day 2 of the 5K program in on the docket for the morning.

Tonight's beer is another one of those "What was I waiting for breweries." Smuttynose Brewing Company's Robust Porter is the feature beer of the day. It poured pitch black with a cocoa color head. It smells of toast with hints of chocolate. The flavor is roasted malt, coffee grinds and some cola. It's a much more aggressive porter than what I've been drinking lately. Bold flavor. A little more carbonation. A bigger bitter hop.

I rate this a good beer. Cheers!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Evolution Monday

Beer #310 Menagerie #7 / Evolution Craft Brewing Company, Salisbury, MD

I haven't had - or needed - a printer in my house in many, many years.  Which makes having to come home today, email myself something at work, drive back to the office, print it, and drive home again all the more irritating.  But it's for a good cause, and if I'm still alive tomorrow, I'll talk more about it then.  If.... if.

Tonight's beer is the Menagerie #7 from Evolution Craft Brewing.  You see a hazy dark amber color in the glass, and you find a good fruit aroma on the nose.  I would swear I picked up tart cherries, although I had been drinking before I sampled this, so don't take my word for it.  The taste is warm, with toffee, biscuit, some spice, and notes of dark fruit.  There's some tartness in there as well, and you can tell this is a potent beer - it does check in at 9% ABV, so it means business.While there's not much info on the Menagerie #7 on the brewery website, elsewhere on the web seems to indicate that this one is barrel aged with ginger.  All I know is this: this beer is very, very good!
So pretty
Evolution has been in business since 2009, when they opened up shop in an old grocery store.  Now you know.

Thing to Think About Today:
For reasons I can neither understand nor explain, this song has been stuck in my head all day.  Perhaps now it will be stuck in yours!  What does this song have to do with anything related to this beer, brewery, or anything else?  Absolutely nothing - it's just my gift to you this evening.  But you can be damn sure I just added this to iTunes, because who doesn't like listening to the Carpenters?

"Just like me, they long to be..... close to you....."