Beerded Ladies

water + hops + malt + yeast + blog

This website is devoted to craft beer reviews, sudsy events, brewery tourism, stunning beertography, bad puns, offbeat beer pairings, dispatches from behind the bar and general beverage snobbery where we can apply terms like "biscuity" and talk about hop profiles.

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Filtering by Category: 50 States of Beer

50 States of Beer: Massachusetts (Unedited)

This post originally appeared in an edited form over at American Food Roots, but I liked the lengthy sucker so much, I thought I'd cross-post it over here. Enjoy poetic waxing!

50 States of Beer: Massachusetts
Mystic Brewery's Saison Renaud & Beer-Battered Fish & Chips

I graduated from The New School in New York City in 2007. I was 22, and the whole entire world sprawled out before me. The whole entire (read: frightening and expensive) world. Though I had spent the last few years happily immersed in the city’s riches, those same riches suddenly seemed fleeting, collegiate, inaccessible. By the spring of 2008, I had dropped out of an unpaid internship and taken a job with the Parks Department, driving a Ford F150 pickup truck and tilling the soil in community gardens, housing projects and neglected playgrounds around the Bronx. It was hot, hot, filthy work, and I was drinking my weight in shamefully cheap beer.

That July, I took a trip to visit a high school friend in Western Massachusetts. In Northampton, I went swimming beneath crystal clear, cold waterfalls, sipped coffee slowly in the pin-drop quiet morning, charmed a girl at a bar and ran laughing through endless flower strewn fields. Suddenly that whole entire world didn’t seem so terrifying. Back in New York, I packed up everything I owned, which amounted to several books of poems a few cut off t-shirts, and high tailed it up Interstate 91. Once there, I reveled in my aimless adolescence, taking a job cooking at a local bakery-cafe and, well, drinking even more beer. But this time, freed of Brooklyn rent and with a few extra bucks in my pocket, this beer was anything but cheap and lousy.

I rented a duplex near the fairgrounds, about a 10 minute walk or 4 minute bike ride from the best beer bar in town: The Dirty Truth. The Dirty Truth had 42 beers on draft, selections that represented the best craft brews in the world. While my parents told everyone I was in Massachusetts “taking some time off to apply to graduate school,” the “dirty truth” of it was I was already beginning my advanced education -- in all things good beer. Each evening, the bar’s messy chalkboard taplist was hoisted off the wall and revised, making room for an ever-evolving list of new brews to research, sample and gulp with unbounded joy. I was home.

Massachusetts has long been synonymous with the big boys of the craft sector, flashy national brands like Sam Adams and Harpoon. While those brands account for most of the state’s brewing profits, they’re only two pieces of a very diverse and deeply rooted regional pie. The people of Massachusetts have been brewing beer for centuries. Why did the Mayflower dock in Plymouth Bay instead of continuing on to Virginia as planned? They ran out of beer. True story -- you can’t make this stuff up.

Today, the Bay State is home to at least 60 breweries and brewpubs, with many more in planning. One of the most exciting microbreweries to make the Dirty Truth’s venerable tap list is Mystic Brewing from Chelsea, Mass, a working class Boston suburb. Mystic Brewing was founded in 2011 by Bryan Greenhagen, an MIT grad trained in the art of fermentation science. Greenhagen, already an accomplished homebrewer, was drawn to the “mysticism” of brewing -- how, given the right circumstances, magical little microbes could literally turn water to wine before his eyes. He dedicated his brewery to this phenomenon, celebrating the wonderfully unpredictable ways of complex wild and Belgian yeast strains, many of which derive from airborne cultures.

Mystic’s lineup cycles through a variety of ales, from wheat wines to Saisons to gruits, an herbal, un-hopped German style popular some 1,000 years ago. The Saison Renaud is a stellar example of Mystic’s ethos and Greenhagen’s passion for farmhouse ales. It’s a relatively simple Saison, drawing from just a single malt and single hop variety. The Pilsner malt provides a clean, crisp backbone and frothy, aromatic head, a quiet balance for the earthy noble Saaz hops. The real star of the show, however, is the house-cultivated yeast, which provides all the characteristic spicy, fruity and floral esters Saison drinkers love.

Though I’ve since left bucolic Massachusetts to attend an actual, accredited graduate school and, years later, even moved back to the city that I once fled so irreverently, I still go back to my old stomping ground, stopping, of course, for a brew and a bite at the Dirty Truth. On a recent visit, a Mystic Saison Renaud paired magically with the house special: beer-battered fish and chips. As soon as that malty, beautifully spiced and incredibly comforting duo was placed in front of me, I was immediately ripped from the whole entire world I had come to call home and transplanted back to that one perfectly pastoral Massachusetts summer.


Beer-Battered Fish
Makes 2 to 3 servings

Beer batter gives fish a crunchy, flavorful coating while keeping the fish moist and tender. Though cod is the traditional favorite, pollock or catfish are more sustainable. For the batter, choose an effervescent and malty beer such as pilsner or crisp amber ale. Serve the fish with thick-cut french fries and malt vinegar. For best results, have a Mystic Saison Renaud at hand. This recipe has been adapted from the National Fisheries Institute, a trade group.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup beer, preferably a malty ale with good carbonation
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablepoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound fresh cod, pollock or tilapia fillets
  • Vegetable or peanut oil for fryinG

Instructions

In wide, shallow bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg yolks and beer, mixing with fork or whisk just until smooth batter forms. Set aside.

In another shallow bowl, combine the lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Cut fillets in half lengthwise and place in the lemon juice mixture.

Pour enough oil into a heavy skillet to reach a depth of at least 1 inch. Heat oil on medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer.

Meanwhile, transfer fish fillets, one by one, from lemon juice mixture to batter and coat thoroughly. Using tongs, add fillets to hot oil, which should sizzle with each addition. Be careful not to crowd the skillet. Fry until golden brown on one side; turn and repeat on other side.

Transfer fried fillet to plate covered with paper towels to drain off excess fat. Serve hot.

50 States of Beer: Florida

Jai Alai IPA, Cigar City Brewing Company 

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Flor-i-dah! I almost for-got yah!

Ah, the Sunshine state. Who doesn't love a good trip to Disney World? A rousing visit to see the grandparents? An airboat journey through the Everglades, where a quietly stern man named Bubba propells you and your drunk family through the alligator-infested waters. Oh that's just me? Okay, okay. On to the beer!

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The Brewery

If I had to review a Florida beer, it'd better be a Cigar City brew. Lucky for me, I was able to acquire a few cans through online craft beer outlet LetsPour. The stuff has gotten quite a reputation amongst the geekiest of beer geeks, and I was ready to dive in.

The award-winning Tampa Bay brewery was founded by Joey Redner (son of infamous Tampa "Strip Club King" Joe Redner... but that's another story) and began operating in 2009. In a 2010 CraftBeer.com article, Redner describes his local boy brewing dreams and tells the story behind the brand's peculiar name.

Back when my dream was still just a dream, I concluded that my hometown of Tampa hadn’t always done the best job exporting its unique history and culture. I wanted to educate people about the town I loved as much as I grew to love craft beer. I made up my mind that spreading the word about Tampa and its Cuban-American heritage and its past as the world’s leading producer of cigars would be an integral part of what I’d do at Cigar City Brewing.

Redder sure poured all that love and pride into his beer.  Today, Cigar City occupies a 15 barrel brewhouse in a 6,600 square foot warehouse space in Tampa's Carver City-Lincoln Gardens neighborhood. In addition to their production facility, Cigar City offers brewery tours and runs a tasting room where thirsty visitors can pick up a pint or grab a growler filled with one of their many styles. There's like twenty different beers! And that's not even counting one-offs! Unreal.

 

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The Beer

The Jai Alai IPA is one of Cigar City's flagship brews. The citrusy IPA is named after the great Spanish sport of Jai Alai, in which somebody has this plastic sicle thing and they kind of play a high speed game of catch with it, or something like that. My Trinidadian grandmother loves watching it and other old people love betting on it from little rooms perched above the court. Either way, the sport's namesake beer is goddamn delicious.

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Pouring a foggy honey orange with a creamy, frothy head, the Jai Alai is all tropical and citrus on the nose. This stuff is super juicy -- pineapple, mango, passionfruit, awesome. But don't be fooled by the fruit -- at 7.5% ABV and 70 IBUs, this is no casual beach sipper. It comes in juicy on the palate, too, with a burst of grapefruit hoppiness giving way to sweet malt. The finish is smooth and the hops stay fresh and juicy throughout -- no pine or resin on the back of the palate, which is exactly how I like it. If all IPAs could taste like the Jai Alai, I'd die happy. And drunk. And obese.

Moral of the Florida story: grab a can of Jai Alai IPA, bet on some Jai Alai with my grandmother and enjoy Cigar City's incredibly diverse line of delicious craft beers. 

Next up is Georgia! Because that's the way the alphabet goes! Hurray!

50 States of Beer: Delaware

Positive Contact Imperial Belgian-Style Witbier, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

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It's no secret that Dogfish Head in Milton and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is one of my favorite breweries of all time. They were one of the first craft beers I tried, and I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Sam Calagione's sweet little wacky brewing tactics. He's a good looking, down home man who loves adventure and good beer. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

The Brewery

Dogfish Head began in 1995 in Milton, DE. Sam was a craft beer pioneer, favoring collaboration over competition and believing that the consumer simply wanted more choices and more creativity, so why not give it to them? He also was a significant player in revising many of Delaware's liquor laws to allow craft brewers the ability to pursue their dreams without having to jump through all the complicated hoops that come with setting up a brewery in a Puritan New England. His efforts shaped the way craft beer was viewed and seriously impacted the craft beer boom.

You can read an in-depth review of Dogfish Head's brewery and brewpub in my December Brewse Cruise, so I'll spare you the redudancy and just say that if you haven't been: go. Go on a beautiful summer day and taste everything. You won't regret it.

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The Beer

Positive Contact is special release under Dogfish Head's newish music collaboration series. This peculiar apple cider infused imperial wit is the brainchild of hip-hop producer Dan the Automator and is sourced from 300lbs of fresh pressed Fuji apples. Here's an adorable video about the release.

I enjoyed this beer at the Jersey shore on a windy Memorial Day afternoon. The beach was the perfect backdrop to the brew's crisp sweetness and its full bodied juiciness came through as warm and bright as the May sun.

The beer pours a hazy, rich honey color with about two inches of creamy yellowish head. I immediately noticed a Saison's amount of spice -- cilantro, coriander, a little white pepper, fresh cut grass -- on the nose. I liked the way the apple juice integrated with the classic Belgian wit's sweet malt, but be warned -- this is not a beer for a hophead. The aroma  features a mild amount of floral hops but I couldn't detect much on the palate as the fruit took precedent over any bitterness. The heightened, champaign-like carbonation balanced out any potential medicinal qualities associated with its 9% ABV, which was a nice surprise, although I was expecting a more sour-like body instead of the deep sweetness that ran rampant on my tongue. Enjoyable, for sure, but I doubt I could drink more than one glass in a sitting.

This post is brought to you by the letter D, and concludes our stop in our nation's tiniest state. Next up: Georgia. Finally time to drink that Terrapin I've been hoarding away!

50 States of Beer: Arizona

Hoppy Valley Session IPA, Phoenix Ale Brewery

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Beggars can't be choosers, especially when they're East Coast beggars in search of a South Western beer. I stumbled upon this mild Arizona IPA while visiting family in Salt Lake City and immediately scooped it up to fill the gap in my sequencial 50 States of Beer quest. Hooray for Arizona! Um, or whatever.

The Brewery

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According to its own website, Phoenix Ale, opened in mid-2011, is Phoenix's newest brewery -- and I believe it because I can't find much information about them. So far, they've released six different ales, all traditional English-style and unfiltered. The current fleet ranges from a watermelon wheat to an imperial porter with a couple hop-centric efforts in between. The baby brewery is the brainchild of Gregory Fretz, a local Phoenix resident and former beer sales rep. After fifteen years hawking other people's craft brews, "Fretzy" (below, with Brewmaster John) decided to make a go of hawking his own. Living the dream, Sir.

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The 15,700 square foot brewery is located three miles East of downtown Phoenix and holds a 20 barrel, three vessel automated system custom built by Oregon's JV Northwest. They offer free tours and tastings so be sure to stop in and let Fretzy show you around if you're in town.

The Beer

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I tried this cold 22oz bottle of Hoppy Valley on Mother's Day, hence the flowers. It's labeled as a Session IPA, coming in at 3.9% ABV, allowing me to purchase it cold from the grocery store in SLC. While the brewery claims it's an American IPA, it tastes very English to me, with more malt than hops and a piney backbone. The pour is a nice amber with about a half inch of quickly diminishing cream-colored head. The aroma is American for sure -- grapefruit and a little fresh grass, but the mouth feel is smooth and light. The malt tempers the initial hops, pushing the aforementioned pine to the back of the palate and providing a overall lager-like experience, with bready notes and hints of molasses. Not my absolute favorite Session IPA, but a solid choice for a cool, pleasant day -- might pair well with a leisurely baseball game or an afternoon fishing trip.

Now that I've conquered Arizona, I'm back on track and heading towards Delaware. Dogfish Head, take notice: I'm coming for you. Unless, of course, I bump into an Arkansas brew along the way...

-MH

50 States of Beer: Connecticut

Mystic River IPA, Cottrell Brewing Company

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Connecticut! New England conservatism and antiquated puritanical liquor laws come to mind. My parents count themselves amongst the 3,580,709 residents of the Constitution State and outside of politely trying my suggestions, they're not much for craft beer. My dad will dabble in Brooklyn Lager, but that's about as micro as I've seen around there. Not the most fruitful beer state, right? Wrong! 

Imagine my surprise when I read that there's an entire Connecticut Beer Trail filled with tiny, regionally distributed breweries just waiting to lead you on a tour! According to the Connecticut Historical Society, Connecticut is home to at least fifteen independent breweries and just as many brewpubs. Connecticut craft beer is brewed with the same love and care exhibited by their more established neighbors and it shows. Enter Cottrell Brewing Co...

The Brewery

Pawcatuck's Cottrell Brewing Company was founded in 1996 by Charles Cottrell Buffum, Jr., the great grandson of printing press manufacturer C.B. Cottrell. Brewmaster Charlie decided to open his microbrewery in the same warehouse that once housed the elder Cottrell's factory. As an homage to his family, Charlie dedicated his award winning flagship brew, Old Yankee Ale, to the colonial-era Cottrells famous for purchasing much of Connecticut & Rhode Island from the Native Americans. Today, Cottrell Brewing is a tried and true Mom & Pop business boasting a range of styles, limited but growing distribution and a strange but mesmerizing promotional video (see above).

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The Beer

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Cottrell Brewing's Mystic Bridge IPA happened to be the closest CT brew I could find on tap and thus became my Connecticut representative. It pours a dark, honeyed amber, topped with a good amount of cream colored head. The aroma is subtle grapefruit with some grass and a hint of rich sweetness from the malt. Upon sipping, this IPA is resolutely East Coast, with crisp citrus fading into an earthy muddiness coating the palate. The hops are there, but they're not smacking you across the face. Malt kicks in near the end to provide a slightly sweet caramel finish that dissipates pretty quickly. The hops don't exactly cut the malt -- it's more like they work in tandem to give this beer a depth you won't find in many lighter body IPAs. The result is less about balance and more about a solid but simple IPA that can stand up to about any culinary situation. And at 6%, the Mystic is fairly drinkable, too. And, um, somebody wrote a song about it.

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This stop on the 50 States journey has been fittingly short and sweet, just like Connecticut. Up next: Dogfish Delaware! 

-MH

50 States of Beer: Colorado

White Rascal Belgian Witbier, Avery Brewing Company & Dale's Pale Ale, Oskar Blues

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Ankle deep in my quest to review a representative beer from all fifty of these nifties, I found myself face to face with a state so saturated with incredible craft breweries that I could barely count them. Actually, I definitely CANNOT count them... That's why my Colorado post has come down to a tie! 

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The Breweries

Avery Brewing Company was founded in Boulder, Colorado in 1993. Head brewmaster Adam Avery grew his business from a small, seven barrel capacity brewery to a nationally distributed and well respected craft beer outlet. They have a wide range of year round brews as well as a rotating roster of seasonals. I spent some time in Boulder a few summers ago and visiting Avery's taproom was high on my todo list. They offer free tours seven days a week, no reservation necessary, and walking through the sprawling outdoor brewery is inspiring to say the least. They've recently amped up their barrel conditioning program so be sure to check out the rows of wine and whiskey barrels patiently incubating delicious special brews. Check out the virtual tour in the video above for a glimpse of their space. And don't forget the cask canning line! Team cans FTW!

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The craft classic, Dale's Pale Ale, (or as my brother lovingly calls it -- DPA), is produced by Oskar Blues Brewing Company in Longmont, Colorado. Since its 1997 brewpub start, Oskar Blues has become a microbrew titan, with widespread national distribution and a brand new brewing facility in sunny North Carolina. 

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After local success peddling killer homemade suds and Southern fare at Oskar Blues Brewpub & Grill in Lyons, CO, owner Dick Dale Katechis took the business a step further and installed a primitive canning plant in a rickety barn next door. As such, Oskar Blues holds the esteemed title as the first American craft brewery to can their beer. At first, the guys canned each beer by hand using a table-top machine. Just imagine that dedication. Now, of course, their canning line is gigantic and way automated (see below).

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One can visit both the brewery and the little brewpub, as I did back in 2010. Here's a picture of my Mom posing with one of Oskar Blues' handsome servers. Please excuse the picture quality -- the photo was taken after a couple flights.

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The Beers
First, the Avery. I enjoyed this fine witbier out of a chilled can, straight from its little metal mouth. It was a beautiful Monday afternoon, so I grabbed my dog, a few cold ones, some baseball mits and a friend and headed to Prospect Park. What better way to wind down the day than sharing light, citrusy beer while tossing around a softball under the Spring sun? That's what I thought.

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It's a little grainy on the nose, which I like in a wheat beer -- unfiltered yeast and a bisquity backbone lend structure to a style that can border on flimsy or soda-sweet. The mouthfeel is smooth and juicy, as expected, and I'd imagine a frothy, white head if it were poured out into a glass. I got a lot of lemonade at first, with some herbal spice on the back end to balance it out. The body maintains a light and refreshing character throughout -- perfect for hanging out at the park. It finishes with a slightly tart, champaign-like zing that's quickly tamped down as it dissipates, leaving almost no aftertaste. Easy drinking goodness.

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[Reblogged from thegreatbeerquest] 

Oh, Dale's! How I love thee. Let me count the ways:

1. Hops! As the beautiful, iconic graphic above suggests, this little pale that could is brimming with fresh, leafy hops. It rings in at 6.5% ABV with 65 IBUs, and I can't help but love the symmetry there. Dale's hop profile runs the gamut from citrusy to piney to grassy to floral, with the strongest contender being the citrus (mostly blood orange and deep tangerine) followed by a healthy dosage of fresh cut grass at the finish. This is a serious American style pale.

2. Cans! As mentioned, Oskar Blues was the first craft brewery to can their stunning line of ales, making them the leaders in the craft can revolution. I've long been a proponent of canning good beer -- it's durable, less sensitive to light and heat, keeps the carbonation intact and facilitates easier and less wasteful shipping methods. 

3. This video! So pretty!

4. Malt! In a good Pale Ale, balance is key. Dale's takes care of this by featuring a rich, sweet caramel malt that mellows out the hops and provides a velvety mouthfeel. I'm not a big fan of overly malted or bready beers, especially when it comes to Pales or IPAs, and Dale's hits on the nail on the head with this one.

5. New Royal Pints! AKA America's first fancy tall can! 

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“Continuing to push the boundaries is what gets us up in the morning, it’s what drives us. This package is a product of that drive and passion. We continue to do what we love, toss a can in your backpack for the backcountry or a grab a stovepipe (19.2oz.) at music and sport venues. 19.2 ounces of Dale’s Pale Ale to go with your favorite band, hell yes.” says Oskar Blues Soul-Founder Dale Katechis in this 2012 BeerPulse.com article.


That about sums up my Western roundup, although it must be said that these two beers faced some tough competition as Colorado state representatives. There must be something in that ice cold Rocky mountain water that makes beer taste better, or at least produces some wacky and super creative brewers. Endless honorable mentions go to New Belgium for having a kick ass brewery tour complete with a sweet Airstream trailer parked out front, Great Divide for making amazing seasonals, Tommyknocker for recently coming to NYC with an excellent Pilsner (pictured below) and Boulder Beer for keeping it psychedelic. So much beer, so little time. 

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Next up, I'll cheers the Constitution State with a Connecticut review. 

- MH

50 States of Beer: California

Pliny the Elder Double IPA & Great Beer/Great Wine Blonde Ale, Russian River Brewing Company

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Due to my inability to secure any beer from Arizona or Arkansas, here we come -- to the holy grail of craft beer, that sweet Western land of promise and golden haired babes... CALIFORNIA.

Of course, when put in the position of choosing a single beer to represent an entire, hop crazy, stoned blind landmass, why not go with the best? So, Pliny it is. And Pliny it will be.

The Brewery

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It's really not much to look at -- a storefront on a suburban street in Santa Rosa that empties out into a dusty parking lot filled with rough looking local boys in checkered Vans and snapbacks with worn, flipped up brims. I spent a few years between high school and college living in and around these Northern California towns and I didn't even notice RR until I moved back for grad school some years later. I think its humble brick and mortar presence is a big part of its charm. 

A pizza-heavy brewpub with as much seating as they can fit, the customers range from craft beer pilgrims to construction workers fresh off a shift to families munching on warm, saucy pizza bites. During my most recent visit, I was able to secure a spot at the bar and immediately ordered a pint of Pliny followed guiltily by a California sampler flight. My girlfriend and I were vacationing nearby and she kindly offered to drive my drunk ass up to the hotel afterward, hence the pint and flight combo. Otherwise, I would have probably fallen asleep on the bar. These beers don't fuck around.

The Beers

imagePliny the Elder is one of my favorite beverages of all time. I'm not going to waste your time with my own description, other than to say that it undoubtedly lives up to its juicy, citrusy, and hop-heavy reputation. And then some. Fresh from the tap, it pours a warm caramel with a slight, bright white head that dissipates quickly. The smell will knock you off your bar stool and the refreshing aroma is balanced by a syrupy mouth feel and crisp, grapefruit on the palate. It scored a well deserved 100 on RateBeer and its 8% ABV is conservative considering its impressive abundance of flavor. It's simply everything I ever wanted in an IPA, so sue me. 

The second beer I tasted is Great Beer/Great Wine. It's a Session ale only released at the Brewpub during the great grape harvest, usually around mid-September. According to RR's description, this smooth Blonde is brewed to give the sweaty winemakers something cool to drink after coming in from the endless vine rows.

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Wine country's blatant beauty is overwhelming yet RR's Great Beer/Great Wine is anything but, in a good way. It's crisp and malty, with a quiet sweetness and a creamy mouth feel. Not too tart and not too bisquity, it scored a 91 on RateBeer. I enjoyed the tropical fruit aroma and the pleasant, honeyed sour quality reminded me of switchel, an age-old concoction consumed by farmers at the end of a work day. I worked on a Vermont dairy farm throughout high school, so I'm a little nostalgic when it comes to antiquated country beverages. Ok,  maybe a lot nostalgic.

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So, there you have it: California. I've spent several years living in the Golden State and I can't say that I miss it. Compared to their perfect beach sunsets, the smell of ocean air, the SF Giants in all their glory and the aggravatingly cheerful disposition of flower children, I much prefer my gloomy NYC neurotics and threadbare Queens baseball. But I do miss one thing, and that's Russian River Brewing Company. Oh, and Mission style burritos.

-MH

50 States of Beer: Alaska

Panty Peeler Belgian Style Tripel, Midnight Sun Brewing Company

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Here we go, folks! The second stop on my fifty nifty united beers tour brings us to the land of Northern Exposure, Jewel, Sarah Palin and some pretty decent craft beer.

The Brewery
Anchorage, Alaska's Midnight Sun Brewing Company was opened in 1995 by homebrewers Mark Staples and Barb Miller. They operate a modest facility, Anchorage's only full time production brewery not associated with a brewpub. Their beers run the gamut, their style refusing any attempt at pinning down -- the kind of renegade spirit we've come to expect from the good old 49th. This is especially true when it comes to, of course, wild strains, according to a 2011 Beer Connoisseur interview.

Just as Seinfeld was a “show about nothing,” Midnight Sun’s pattern is to have no pattern. “We brew beers we want to drink,” says Barb. There is a lot of experimentation with ingredients, spices, yeast strains (25 this year) and barrel aging. They routinely make Belgian-style beers, use souring organisms, and allow Brettanomyces to make their beers wild. They also offer hoppy yet clean American styles. There are collaborations, commemoratives, anniversary brews, four quarterly Imperial IPAs, a wood-aged barleywine and two pumpkin beers.

While Midnight Sun is distributed throughout a handful of the lower forty-eight, the brewery itself seems like a really cool space and worth a visit if you find yourself up in our fair country's nether regions. Apparently the brew team keeps a tasting loft stocked with every draft beer they make and every bottle in distribution. And they hosted this rad Pink Boots event for the entire month of February! Sign me up.

The Beer
The Brooklyn craft beer bar where I occasionally trade pints for tips happens to stock two varieties of Midnight Sun in 22oz bottles. Naturally, I opted for the one with the dumbest name -- the Panty Peeler Abbey Tripel -- took her home and after some mild conversation, well, peeled her open.

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Ok, ok, I'm sorry. I'm over the name. Now you get over it. Ok, let's move on.

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The beer pours a satisfyingly rich, deep amber color with a slight but frothy head thanks to the bottle conditioning. This particular bottle was taken home warm and then chilled overnight in the fridge, so I'm giving Midnight Sun the benefit of the doubt and blaming my low head yield on the temperature disruption. 

The nose is refreshingly spicy for a tripel -- bitter orange and coriander instead of the sugary, Skittles-like scent many American style tripels exude. I also noticed layers of a bready, pit fruit yeastiness that added to the tripel's complexity. After experiencing the aroma, I wasn't wowed by the taste. The spice and sweet was extremely well balanced throughout, with subtle pear and apple softening the white peppercorn and clove, but maybe that was my issue. It didn't have that characteristic Sweet Tart lingering I was expecting. I can see this being a big plus for some drinkers -- probably thinner than me and with much better teeth -- but when I want a tripel, I kind of want a tripel, know what I mean? I appreciate the lack of sugar in the aroma, as it often masks or overwhelms the senses, but I do love that sting of sour-sweet that sits on your palate as the beer pours back. And I found this guy lacking in that department, not completely delivering the punch to the mouth the nose surely packs.

However, at a reasonable 8.5% ABV, this tripel is drinkable and smooth and should be enjoyed with a close friend alongside a crackling fire, a delicate snowfall and some fresh baked gingerbread cookies. Or you can do what I did and split a bottle with your roommate while watching Bar Rescue and eating chips. Whatever works.

- MH

Oh, and if anyone has leads on some good Arizona or Arkansas craft brews, please toss them my way! If I don't find a bottle soon, I'm going to have to skip over these As and head straight for California... Please, don't make me go to California. Not this soon.

P.S. This photo is what comes up when you do a Google Image search for "Alaska Beer"...

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50 States of Beer: Alabama

Snake Handler Double IPA & Flagship IPA, Good People Brewing Company

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So, I'm starting a new series in which I attempt to taste and review a craft beer from each of our fifty nifty United States (in alphabetical order, of course). For my inaugural 50 States of Beer post, I decided to sample a couple of fine canned brews out of Birmingham, Alabama.

The Brewery 
Good People Brewing Company sold its first keg in 2008, opening with just fourteen local accounts. As you might have guessed, Alabama's liquor laws were antiquated and tough, and the Good guys faced their fair share of battles.

"At that time Alabama’s beer laws ranked amongst the country’s strictest and most antiquated.  For instance, the legal alcohol by volume (ABV) limit was 6%.  Despite this, Good People found a wellspring of local support.  Along with concerned citizens and the ardent advocacy group Free the Hops, Good People has helped to spur on changes to allow Alabama’s beer culture to thrive."
- GPB Website

Through it all, they managed to get some ABV ordinances passed and opened a bigger 1000+ barrel facility in Birmingham in 2010. Their distribution is currently limited to Alabama and they remain focused on being a community minded local brewery. Thank goodness I have traveling beer buddies in Birmingham, because these beers were perfect for my new series kick off. Roll tide!

The Beers
My friend Jacki brought me up two varieties of GPB -- Snake Handler Double IPA and their flagship IPA. Both are canned, which is something I'm really into these days after reading a great article in the Winter edition of Beer Connoisseur. I love the old school, graphic aesthetic of the labeling, like a craft beer version of the Miller High Life, working-class-throw-back style. You know -- greasers, etc. Very Birmingham.

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I tried the IPA first, working my way up the ABV ladder. It poured a nice copper color. It's unfiltered, so the cloudiness enveloped the glass and lingered as it settled -- always a comforting sight to me. The aroma is on the lighter, refreshing side with herbal and floral notes that easily surpassed any metallic seepage from the can thanks to the dry-hop process. The initial taste was awesomely balanced, with equal parts caramel and hops and not too piney. Very drinkable at 7.2% with 64 IBUs. Smooth mouthfeel with a bit of bitterness to the finish. I could have used a little more citrus flavor but overall it's an excellent IPA that could combat any hot, muggy 'Bama night.

The Snake Handler Double IPA is reminiscent of a punch in the face -- a really enjoyable, extremely fun and rewarding punch in the face. With 9.3% ABV and 103 IBUs, this beer is not fucking around, no sir.

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As you can see from my excellent beertography, the Snake Handler pours out a pretty, deep orange color with a dense, peachy-white head. The nose was all sticky-sweet citrus for me, which I loved. The taste follows up on the nose's promise and delivers a big bang of orange and grapefruit up front, finishing into a more piney bitterness as it leave the palate. Some good balance from the malts to keep the sweetness sustained throughout. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with good carbonation to keep it from getting overly thick and creamy -- my preference when it comes to bigger beers like this bad boy. Another perfect hot weather brew, I cherished every drop of the two Snake Handler cans entrusted to me. And then I was wasted.

-MH

Tune in next time as I attempt to peel the 22oz panties off Alaska...