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 Tag: Beer Travel

Brewse Cruise: Maybe it was Memphis

Memphis Beer Week, Memphis, TN

Last week, I took a road trip down to Memphis with my girlfriend and our pup, who are relocating down south for work. And... the trip *happened* to coincide with the second annual Memphis Beer Week! What are the odds?? 

We all know that Memphis is a charming southern city on the banks of the might Mississipp. The music, the culture, the cuisine -- it's all world famous. But did you know they're also host to a budding craft beer scene? True story.

According to Memphis Made Brewing Company co-owner Andy Ashby, three craft outlets have opened in just the last year. Despite a relatively slow start, the local beer community is beginning to thrive in the sleepy Delta town. A ton of businesses are getting in on the craft craze, stocking bottles and kegs of hometown brew, adding lines for grocery store growler fills and hosting tap takeovers, meet the brewer events and beer dinners year round. "Memphis has been a little slow on the trend," Andy explained. "Trends tend to start on the coasts and move in, and we're in the middle of the country. But people really have a taste for it now." 'Bout time.

Here's my quick list of where to go and what to drink, if you happen to find yourself in this tasty little corner of the US. Cheers, y'all!

What to Drink:

  1. High Cotton Brewing
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    ust about everything I tried from this little microbrewery was well made and very creative. Highlights include the Belgian IPA and the Biere de Garde, which makes good use of its refreshingly fruity funkiness. 
  2. Wiseacre Brewery
    These guys output some great canned options, including a hoppy, bright IPA and a lighter, biscuity Pils that top my list. Their tap room, the first in Memphis, is sunny and inviting. Bring your pup and kick back for the afternoon with a cold one in hand.
  3. Ghost River Brewing
    The O.G. of the Memphis brewing bunch, this pioneering craft outlet opened way back in 2003 and has been churning out brew ever since. They specialize in European styles and are known for their award-winning Riverbank Red, a traditional Irish-style red ale, and their refreshing, German-hopped Golden Ale.
  4. Memphis Made Brewing
    N.K.O.T.B. Memphis Made Brewing Co. gets the award for friendliest little brewery under the Memphis sun. The guys can be spotted making deliveries around town, stopping in to say hello and grab a sip at the Growler or another local fave. The Bent Note IPA is nicely balanced and the richly spiced farmhouse ale, the Junt, is good on a hot day. Their newest brew, the Southern Julep, is a Belgian-style brown ale brewed with fresh mint and aged with American oak. Grab your hat and get ready for the Derby, folks!
  5. Yazoo Brewing Company
    Ok, so these guys are technically based in Nashville, but they were all over Memphis Beer Week just the same. And thank goodness, because they are so, so, so damn good. Check them out, for serious. The Hop Project line of IPAs are of particular interest... because they taste amazing.

Where to Drink:

  1. The Growler
    A brand new bottleshop and taproom in an adorable little neighborhood called Midtown. Flights, pints, growler fills and soon-to-be sandwich bar run by a couple of passionate beer nerds -- my kind of place.
  2. Central BBQ
    As a write this, my mouth is watering. Come for the BBQ nachos and ribs, stay for the well curated selection of thirst-quenching local brews, all served with a smile.
  3. Tamp & Tap
    I totally fell in love with this downtown cafe. For a New Yorker with a mean coffee addiction, locating good coffee in a new town is top priority, and this place has excellent drip, espresso and cold brewed iced coffee. And what else? A fantastic supply of local craft brews with enough bottles and taps to keep you kickin' for hours.
  4. The Green Beetle
    This tavern, which dates back to the early 20th century, is a classic dive bar in the best sense of the term. Warmly lit, with doors flung open to the street and Memphis Grizzlies basketball pumping through the speakers, this joint has a surprising number of craft-devoted taps. A great place to catch a game or grab a bit of southern fried goodness.
  5. Local Gastropub
    Ok, so this place is a little cheesy and a little chain-y, which isn't my normal bag. BUT, in my defense, the food is awesome and they offer a Tennessee-brewed flight special for cheap. Worth a try if you're overcome by a powerful thirst while visiting the touristy part of town.

 

Brewse Cruise: Maine Squeeze

Who decides to visit Maine in late November, a time when temperatures drop to Planet Hoth levels and tourist hot spots lay barren and empty, dreaming of the warmer months? What kind of maniac plans a birthday weekend away to the coldest corner of the country? This guy.

For beer lovers, Maine is a veritable mecca. The state is known for phenomenal craft beer -- from Alan Pugsley's legacy of English-style open-fermented ales to innovative and deliciously aged Belgians to hopped-up ambitious young brews. Drive through adorable downtown Portland and you're bound to see at least a dozen brewpubs, beer bars and full fledged production breweries, churning out barrels upon barrels of the good stuff for tourists and locals alike. 

Click through the photos below for a peek into my Maine adventure and start scheduling your own visit today (a summer trip is highly recommended...).

Brewse Cruise

Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY 

A few weeks ago, my dad turned the big 7-0 and like the golden child I am (yeah, right…) I organized a giant surprise family getaway weekend to Cooperstown, New York. Why Cooperstown? The man had religiously watched 70 complete, start-to-finish MLB seasons and had never visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite living within driving distance for the last 15 years. Unbelievable! Really, a travesty. Thus, the idea for a big birthday blowout celebrating both the end of summer and the boys of summer seemed appropriate. My brother joined in and set up a fishing trip on Lake Ostego, my mom rented a couple of lakeside cabins for the whole brood and we were off, heading five hours North on dusty back roads to the town that once produced the bulk of our nations hops: Cooperstown, New York.

As always, my beer geekdom trumps most everything and I knew I just had to incorporate a stop at Brewery Ommegang into the birthday weekend. “He’ll love it!” I assured my mom, conveniently leaving out the fact that Brewery Ommegang is famous for their delicious line of rich Belgian-style ales (Dad’s a tried-and-true lager lover from years back, occasionally branching out to a pale ale on a special occasion with much coaxing, but definitely not a witte guy). “Who doesn’t love a brewery tour??”

The answer? No one! I called up to the brewery to inquire about getting a private tour and hooking my dad up with a cake at the café for a pre-tour lunch and they were more than accommodating. At lunch, my niece and nephew scarfed down the pomme frites as the adults daringly ventured outside their beer comfort zones, sipping on the new Game of Thrones inspired Take the Black Stout (my sister-in-law embraced her nerdiness and took home a whole case) and enjoying the spicy Hennepin Saison and smooth, malty Rare VOS Amber I recommended.

A family toast featuring bother Billy.

A family toast featuring bother Billy.

After lunch, we gathered in the tasting room, a beautiful little nook abutting the café. Brewery Ommegang is more of a campus than your standard brewery – no back lot, industrial park, 30 barrel outfit, this operations has grounds. The surrounding rolling hills are dotted with hop vines grown by nearby Cornell University in an effort to combat the region’s debilitating blight. The café itself is a veritable estate, with a busy retail shop, a tasting room and a large restaurant with giant, communal tables. As soon as you walk through the heavy wooden doors, you’ll immediately know why HBO contacted Ommegang to propose their Game of Thrones partnership – it just makes sense. The place was packed but we managed to pony up to the bar and grab our adorable little tasting glasses, reading them for the six pours to come: Witte, a creamy and lemony Belgian white ale; BPA, an excellent 6.2% ABV Cascade-hopped take on a pale ale with a Belgian twist; Rare VOS, a rich amber with a hoppy bite and dry finish; Hennepin, a deceptively strong and deliciously bubbly Saison; Abbey Ale, a Trappist Dubbel flavored with dark cherries which blew my dad’s red wine-loving mind; and the aforementioned Take the Black Stout, a creamy Belgian-style stout brewed with four different dark malts, star anise and dried licorice root. Needless to say, we were well satiated and ready for a nap at that point.

The brewery grounds.

The brewery grounds.

After the tasting, we stumbled outside to meet Sarah for our private brewery tour. The two-building brewhouse is a big barn-like structure lined with giant metal silos. Sarah led us around and filled our wobbly minds with knowledge, filling us in on Ommegang’s brewing processes and vision. Ommegang was founded in 1997 by Cooperstown locals Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield, famed owners of Vanberg & DeWulf import company. As a startup company, Don and Wendy took on family-owned Belgian brewery Duvel as investors, allotting them 40% of the company. Later, as demand outdid supply, Duvel offered to purchase the struggling brewery in full, buying out the remaining 60% ten years ago and gifting Ommegang the state of the art brewhouse and café my family full enjoyed that very afternoon. Duvel continues to parent the company and their reach is impressive – Brewery Ommegang is available in 46 US states, Canada, Mexico and US Virgin Islands. While their emphasis is on traditional Belgian styles, Ommegang’s brewhouse features a small pilot system and a team of chemists excited about developing new brews and improving the old – innovation, of course, is the cornerstone of craft beer.

The brewhouse.

The brewhouse.

The pilot system.

The pilot system.

The coolest thing I learned that day? All of their beers are bottle conditioned. Whether you’re enjoying your Hennepin in Hawaii or Cancun, that sucker’s carbonation is 100% au natural. That’s some serious quality control.

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 We left the brewery full, happy and just a tiny bit more knowledgeable about Belgian beers. I can’t wait to introduce my dad to more rich strong ales that mirror his beloved Cabs and my sister-in-law continues to geek out about her GoT purchase. We made it back to the cabin safely, thanks to my amazing designated driver girlfriend, and were present and accounted for at the Hall of Fame the next morning. Birthday mission, consider yourself accomplished.

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Beer Here!

New York State Food & Beer Expo, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I’m not going to lie, one of the of the best parts of being a beer writer is all the free beer. There was a whole lot of that going on at July’s New York State Food & Beer Expo at BIBA, a waterfront bar in Williamsburg. My press pass gave me and a friend instant access to dozens of well poured local craft beers and introduced me to some brand new and super exciting brewery startups from around the state.

A reporter hard at work.

A reporter hard at work.

We stumbled in around 1PM and the expo was well underway. Shaded booths lined BIBA’s sizable outdoor lot while already drunk patrons sat at picnic tables, clutching 10oz plastic cups and drinking in the postcard-perfect views of the Manhattan skyline. It was a hot, sunny day -- ideal outdoor beer fest weather. I ran into my friend Jessie Kieffer, the beverage director at Tribeca's Terroir and co-host of Heritage Radio Network’s The Morning After, who introduced me to the man of the hour, Jimmy Carbone. Owner of Jimmy’s No. 47 and host of the weekly Beer Sessions Radio, Jimmy is quite the craft beer legend around these parts. He recognized Beerded Ladies from the twittersphere and I managed to mutter “Big fan, big fan,” a few times while we chatted. I have to admit, those high fives we shared were the highlight of my geek-driven day. Jimmy, man, you rule. Thanks for the shout out.

Jimmy Carbone (center, pink blazer) awarding some NY craft beer VIPs. Can you name them?

Jimmy Carbone (center, pink blazer) awarding some NY craft beer VIPs. Can you name them?

Anyway, enough about my incoherent nerd babble. Let’s get to the beers!

My Top Five:

5. Queens Brewery

Tucked away in the VIP lounge’s back corner bar was a representative from Queens Brewery, a brand new outfit in Queens, New York. The gentleman touting their flagship lager could have stepped right out of a scene from Goodfellas, with his slicked back grey hair and thick outer borough accent. He was working the crowd, pouring samples and opening bottles while explaining the history and development of Astoria’s newest brewery, which was set to officially debut the following Wednesday to 26 hand-sold accounts.

The beer.

The beer.

The dude.

The dude.

Contract brewed upstate, the lager is similar to a Sam Adams in mouthfeel and aroma, with some burnt caramel on the nose and a dry finish. Crisp and refreshing for a hot day, this brew is easy-drinking and mellow and nicely balanced by a strong malt backbone featuring hints of maple syrup and rich molasses. A great golf course beer or maybe something to power you through an 11-inning Mets game. If you’re in New York, keep your eyes peeled for this pleasant, true-to-style lager to show up at your local pub.

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4. Radiant Pig Craft Beers

Radiant Pig was set up smack dab next to big(ger) boys Peekskill and Newburgh, making them hard to miss. This two person outfit contract brews out of Connecticut’s Thomas Hooker brewery. They’re only five months old to date but have managed distribution in all five boroughs -- an impressive feat! As RP’s logistics guru Laurisa says, brewmaster Rob dropped his gym membership in favor hand delivering kegs to all their 60+ accounts. You can find Radiant Pig’s tasty brews at any of these fine locations: http://radiantpigbeer.com/find-us/

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At the expo, RP offered their flagship Junior IPA, a sessionable ale at 5% ABV. The brew features a smooth, citrusy hop nose followed up by a surprisingly strong malt backbone for its style. I loved the light body and earthy undertones. Hops wise, it straddles the line between pale and IPA -- not a hop-head’s delight but perfect for enjoying a couple under all that hot sun. I also love the idea that a nano-brewery is trying to make a name for themselves with a session beer. If their Junior IPA is any indication, RP has a bright future for sure. Be sure to check them out.

3. Newburgh Brewing Company

Newburgh, I love you. I’ve sampled some offering in Brooklyn bars but I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting a Newburgh brew fresh from Upstate. CEO and Brewmaster Christopher Basso brought a couple of kegs down the Hudson for us fine drunk folks to try at the festival and I’m sure glad they did.

The Saison Farmhouse Style Ale was bursting with lemon and bubbles, just the way I prefer. For a farmhouse, it was extremely light in body and ABV, clocking in around 3.8%. I blew right through my 8oz pour while chatting about Newburgh’s impressive line up taht includes a coffee sour, a Berliner Weisse brewed with rye and 100% brettanomyces, a Chili Lime Stout(!) and a Scottish fall seasonal called Squashtober made with Belgian yeast, squash (duh) and spices. Good Lord! After all that talk, I was ready for another pour. The second sample was the Cream Ale, a hopped up version of the lawnmower favorite with a solid malt backbone for that bisquity, lager finish. Delicious. I can’t wait to take Chris up on that tour offer and drink my way through their catalog

2. Rushing Duck

Rushing Duck! This was the first booth Jimmy Carbone told me to check out -- convenient as it was also the first booth I gravitated towards on my own. Brewed in Orange County, NY (which I didn’t know existed), Rushing Duck was opened in 2012 by father-son team Les and Dan Hitchcock. How adorable is that?

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The dudes behind the jockey box were pouring two styles but I only got the chance to try one of them: The Bauli Saison. It’s fair to say that this beer pretty much knocked me off my feet. I love a good saison, especially on a hot day, and the Bauli was a glorious example of a fantastic style. Full bodied with a spicy nose, this 6% ABV brew wasn’t the least bit shy. The kaffir lime and Champaign-like effervescence balanced out the peppercorns and sweet malt, making it both light bodied and rich. All I could say is, “More, please. Now.”

1. Peeksill Brewing

I have to hand it to Peekskill -- they never cease to amaze me. I tried their Simple Sour a few months back at a new beer bar near my house, Nostrand Avenue Pub. It was fantastic as I remember it, tart and fruity with a tangerine twist. When Jimmy Carbone told me they altered the recipe, I made my way directly over to their booth and offered up my cup. Assistant GM Brendan gave me the pour and yep - that sour was in a class of its own. Like a Berliner Weiss with an extra punch and Champaign-like carbonation, the brew was equal parts juicy and dry if you can believe it. Brilliant. Their second offering was their award-winning Eastern Standard IPA -- all hop-forward goodness with incredible citrusy and floral aromatics then some tropical fruits balanced by a slightly spicy malt character. Trust me, if anything is worth a scene trip up the Hudson, it’s Peekskill Brewery. They’re not just going places -- they’ve already been there, made some beer, blew everyone away and moved on.

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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

Brewse Cruise

Uinta Brewing, Salt Lake City, Utahimage

Uinta Brewing Company is one of those little boutique-y breweries that you want to love before you even taste their beer because they're small and earnest and 100% wind powered... so it's a good thing their beer lives up to it! The odds are truly against these guys -- Utah closely monitors the distribution of higher ABV beers so instead of bucking the law like our friends at Epic, these guys have decided to make do with the laws God (er, his followers...) gave them. In accordance with my theory that creativity often flourishes under constraint, Uinta's line is straight forward and sticks to sessionable style codes while still producing some tasty styles and interesting flavor notes.

The brewery, stashed away in an industrial office park near downtown SLC, features an inviting taproom with wooden tables, a circular bar and a selection of sandwiches ordered deli-style with golf pencils and a notepad. I was dissapointed to learn that Utah doesn't allow flights because of some BS "vessel per customer" law -- an unavoidable bummer, especially in a low ABV brewery. 

Their naturally lower ABV beers are a notch above their attempts at an sessionable IPA or coffee porter. The Wyld Extra Pale, at 4.0% ABV and 29 IBUs was the best of the litter. Lemony on the nose with a subtle floral hop aroma, it's medium-bodied with a piney beginning, some caramel malt and a citrusy but fairly dry finish. Playing it a big close to the chest and definitely drinkable and good with a meal.

I revisited SLC in May and was able to catch a fresh batch of Sum'r Ale, which lived up to everything I had read about it. The use of Sorachi Ace hops give this refreshing brew a bready, buttery quality that pairs nicely with a warm day/a bbq/watching my nephew play baseball while trying not to get caught drinking beer in a public park in Utah. The nose is all soft lemons and rich biscuit -- like a light lager with the subtle sweetness of a true golden. Well done, Uinta.

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If you're in the area, I'd say swing by Uinta's facility before heading to Epic to get your feet wet. Oh and it's pronounced U-IN-TAH. You're welcome.

Addendum: Now that Uinta has broadened their distribution channels, I've been enjoying and recommending their delicious higher ABV brews all over New York. Their Hop Notch IPA kills it and packs an amazing hoppy punch - don't pass this one up if you spy it on draft at the local pub.

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

Brewse Cruise

Epic Brewing Company, Salt Lake City, UT

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Reasons Why Epic Brewing Company Rules: A Brewse Cruise Essay

  1. They're they proudest, most perfectly irreverent brewers of high gravity ales and lagers I've ever met.
    Does Epic care that its Mormonistic (is that a word?) state strictly monitors and limits the ABV of beer sold in bars, grocery stores and even state-run liquor stores? No, Epic doesn't give a fuck. They are the first brewery since prohibition to exclusively brew beer above 4.0%. And they've been successfully handing it to the man since 2010, distributing the majority of their product out-of-state while also selling an amazing variety of cold (state-run liquor stores prohibit the sale of cold beer) bottles from their tiny brewery shop in downtown SLC.
  2. Their hand-crafted, inventive line is primarily sold in 22oz bottles.
    Because you really ought to be serious about drinking this stuff. And you also really ought to share. 
  3. Their brewery features a sandwich shop the size of a closet.
    As soon as Utah's ATF laws changed to allow breweries to sell their own draft beer as long as food was also consumed, Epic installed a tiny sandwich shop in a narrow hallway. They list about a dozen snacks on a chalkboard and it's manned by a guy who looks eternally bored and claustrophobic. All so you can now enjoy a post-tour sample.
  4. They age their Brainless® on Peaches Belgian-Style Ale in imported French Chardonnay casks.
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    Are you impressed yet?
  5. Said Belgian-Style Ale is incredibly well-balanced and somehow drinkable, despite its 10.7% ABV and oak conditioning.
    Yeasty, sweet fruity notes give way to a complex mixture of hay and a little sour zing at the end. I'd recommend letting it open up like wine, maybe even decanting it. It also ages well and each release it a little different (and marked by the brewery).

When I visited Epic, the tour guide was really nice and informative and gave us an in-depth behind the scenes tour of the single building brewery. Apparently, it used to be even smaller before they bought out the Thai place next door to install their warehouse. Unbelievable. By far the best brewery experience in the great Salt Lake and worth a visit. Fingers crossed for New York distribution.

-MH

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Brewse Cruise

Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats, Rehoboth Beach, DE

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Who doesn't love Dogfish Head? Their quirky, charismatic and somehow resolutely humble founder, Sam, practically singlehandedly brought craft beer to the forefront. He's the kind of guy that travels all the way to Egypt to collect wild yeast, names limited edition brews after dead blues musicians and continuously hops IPAs for 120 minutes. What an adorable wack job. I might be a little bit in love.

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[While this appears to be a picture of my girlfriend, it's actually a picture of the back of Sam's head at the table behind her...]

I've been to Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats Brewpub in Rehoboth twice and to the actual brewery in Milton, DE once. Although both are pretty awesome, I'd check out the brewpub if you had to pick one -- it's a bit more accessible and you get the same amount of hands-on sights and beverage selection, including their full line of spirits. The food at the brewpub definitely lives up to the beer, which is really saying something. And there's always something special on cask.

What to drink? I'm a big fan of their seasonals -- Festina Peche, Aprihop, Punkin Ale, Chicory Stout, etc. I find that they seem to be the most balanced, fresh-tasting and consistently interesting of the batch. Sam can get a little wild with his experimentation and I tend to get lost along the way. But the seasonals are 100% worth it every time. 

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The first craft beer I remember consuming was a Festina Peche. Maybe that's why I hold the little delicate Summer Berliner Weissbier so dear to my heart. Maybe its the juicy peachiness that first fills your mouth, or the tart, fruity zing that lingers on the back of the palate, or even its light, saison-like champagney mouth feel. Either way, I knew from that first sip that this was unlike any other "beer" I had ever tried. From that moment forward, I put down my 40oz of Ballantine, purchased a mini-fridge off Craigslist and scoured the Brooklyn streets for more. And six years later, I'm still drinking it.

So, beerded fellows, visit Delaware, hit the outlets and finish your day with some good eats and inventive brewing ala Sam. 

-MH