Dispatches from the Village Voice's Brooklyn Pour!
On October 12th, I raced from my normal Saturday gig (giving craft beer walking tours of Williamsburg for Urban Oyster) to the Brooklyn Pour festival at Skylight One Hanson in Fort Greene, a decommissioned bank built in the most beautiful Art Deco style. A giant beast of marble and delicate fresco, the building was truly inspiring and an hilarious place to host a sloppy, day drunk craft beer fest.
The list of participating breweries was impressive, especially considering the fest was scheduled for GABF weekend. But the gang was there, ranging from actual brewers like our buddy Heather from Sixpoint and our good friends Joe & Lauren Grimm from Grimm Artisanal Ales to NY Sales reps for national brands like Victory and Founders to friends of friends who know a guy and can pour beer and work a thirsty crowd. A mixed bag for sure, but a good time for all.
We came, we saw, we drank. And we very much enjoyed the tunes from the Don Giovanni Records DJ team! Until next time, Village Voice.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Homebrewklyn & The Mighty Fem-Ales
Several months ago, I had the pleasure of attending Homebrewklyn, a homebrewer’s contest and tasting presented by Rally Downtown and sponsored by everyone’s favorite homebrew shop, Bitter & Esters. The Saturday afternoon affair was held at the breathtakingly beautiful Green Building on the (admittedly scummy) banks of the Gowanus Canal and featured dozens of homebrewing Brooklynites rearing to share their latest batch with a crowd of thirsty ticket-buyers. Upon walking in, my initial impression was “Hell Yes!” My fellow festival-goers stood in stark contrast to the majority of beer events I attend -- they ran the gamut from the expected industry folks and recognizable beer geeks to run-of-the-mill Moms and Dads who happened to wander by to groups of girls (yes, girls!) happily imbibing tiny glasses of Peach Saison and Hibiscus IPA. I was happy to see so much fitting diversity at this decidedly grassroots fundraising event.
I was even more pleased when I glanced over the brewers ballot (everyone was encouraged to vote for their favorite homebrew in a crowd’s choice runoff) and noticed more than a few female names on the list! I immediately made my way over to Kate Boicourt’s booth and offered my empty glass up for a fill of her Venus de Gowanus Black Ale. Fantastic - nicely hopped, with toasty coffee notes and a smoky finish. Kate and I got to talking and after I dropped a few BeerdedLadies.com coasters on the table, she told me that she and her good friend Sheri Lyn brew together -- or at least conspire to brew together -- under the name FemAles. She was passionate about craft beer, homebrewing and getting more women into the scene. I sensed the urge to blog coming on and quickly exchanged info, intent on setting up a Beerded Ladies & FemAles homebrew tasting/interview/explosion of the likeminded minds.
That day came a few weeks later when Sheri, Kate, Hayley and I met up under a beautiful oak tree in pastoral Fort Greene park. Ok, I don’t know if it was actually an oak tree, but it was beautiful none-the-less. The AleWives brought samples of their homebrew and Hayley and I brought a notepad, a voice recorder and eager palates. Kate’s Venus de Gowanus went over extremely well, as I knew it would. Hayley, the stout fan that she is, dug the black pale ale's distinct roastyness and crisp finish. When Sheri -- who’s spicy, juicy BondoncaBLANC Blonde got my fan favorite vote at the contest -- busted out a bottle of smoked chocolate porter salvaged from a previous batch, I knew this was a match made in craft beer heaven.
We sipped and chatted and talked for awhile as the sun set behind us. The FemAles both work for environmental agencies, a fact that lead to an interesting conversation about brewing & science, water’s integral role in the brewing process and the advantages of New York’s famously fresh supply.
Kate told me she got her start when she first moved to New York. Her Maryland-based brother gave her a kit as a gift, one of those prepackaged get-ups with packets of yeast and a jar of malt syrup. Although she’s learned a lot since then -- and now uses all grain, of course -- she still remembers that first batch fondly and wishes she could find those mystery ingredients again.
Sheri, on the other hand, cooked up her first homebrew down under, on the other side of the globe. While studying for her Master's Degree in Australia, she volunteered with Seven Sheds Brewery in Tasmania. No syrups for this girl -- Sherri started off with whole grains and fumbled her way through several unsuccessful brewing attempts before mastering the hobby. Still, though, Sheri bucks style confines, evidenced by the not-so-blonde blonde presented at the event.
The Fem-Ales have combined forces before, brewing up a provocative titled IPA called Bitches in Space. The brew’s apt name was derived from an imported hop strain with a particularly otherworldly moniker.
All jokes aside, hanging out with these two talented homebrewers was everything us Beerded Ladies hoped for. Meeting other women who care as deeply about craft beer as we do is pretty special, and I hope for many more breezy afternoons just like this one. Breaking news: Sheri and Kate (alongside fellow accomplished homebrewer Shannon Bowser) have just announced that they will lead a WOMEN’S ONLY HOMEBREW CLASS at Bitter & Esters next month! Be sure to sign up for the class here, beerded ones. Maybe we’ll even collaborate on a Beerded-Ladies-Fem-Ales brew -- better start thinking up some clever names now!
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.
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.
Anyway, enough about my incoherent nerd babble. Let’s get to the beers!
My Top Five:
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.
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.
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/
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.
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?
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.”
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.
Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, PA
Craigslist is a funny beast. It has been proven to successfully lead its follows to an overpriced apartment, a couple of creepy roommates, a like-new Ikea shelving unit or a casual encounter. And sometimes it can lead a person to a private tour of Victory Brewing Company lead by co-founder Ron Barchet.
To make a long story short, my friend Emma was selling some vintage lamps or something arbitrary on Philly's Craigslist and was contacted by an interested buyer who happened to have a @victorybrewing.com email address. She inquired, found out it was Ron Barchet's wife and, as a good friends should, told her about my blog. Next thing I knew, I was on a Chinatown bus heading South towards the city of brotherly love.
While the Downingon, PA facility isn't currently offering pubic tours due to 24/7 production, Ron and his wife welcomed us to the sprawling operation with open arms, dousing us in free pints and showing us personally around their impressive property. The taproom itself is worth the trip -- its a giant space, filled with beautiful custom woodwork and bits and pieces of retired copper brew kettles shipped over from Germany. It's also -- and more importantly -- filled with a ridiculous amount of taps pouring the freshest one-offs, limited batches and flagship styles Victory has to offer!
Ron immediately greeted us with a firm handshake. Before I knew it, the pints started flowing and a crisp and perfectly balanced Swing Session Saison was in my hand. This Belgian Pilsner, bright with carbonation and spicy with black pepper and lemon zest, went down fast and easy -- a true session beer. Ron began telling me about his background and unlikely path towards brewing (a common story in this industry). He opened Victory with his best friend since 5th grade, Bill Covaleski. The two began homebrewing in the 80's, and several years later, Bill convinced Ron to quit his day job in finances and join him in the pursuit of great beer. The goodnatured, faithful friend agreed and went off to an apprenticeship with Batimore Brewing Company. It was during that short stint in Baltimore that Ron fell in love with traditional German brewing. He then took a trip to Germany and completed intensive training at the Technical University of Munich at Weihenstephan, initiating a strong German partnership that continues to this day through hop exchanges, equipment trades and a wealth of shared brewing knowledge.
When Ron returned, joined Old Dominion Brewing Company in Virginia, expanding their production exponentially and increasing his skills as a brewmaster. Bill was in Baltimore, adding German styles to their repertoire and learning as much as he could about the business side of brewing. After a few years making beers for other folks, Bill and Ron decided to return home to Pennsylvania to open their very own brewery. Starting as a brewpub outside of Philadelphia, Victory Brewing poured its first pint in February of 1995 and has been turning out a growing lineup of great brews ever since.
Since expanding, Victory has relocated their main production outfit to some buildings adjoining the brewpub and is in the process of moving their major brands to a new piece of acreage down the way. The brewpub facility is used to produce one-offs and specialty beers, as well as to house the bottling plant and barrel storage warehouse. The automated, winding bottling line is impressive and extremely efficient, paying testament to Ron and Bill's business mindset. I was particularly struck by the barrel aging room, where Bill giddily told me about the the retired Chardonnay, Heaven Hill Bourbon and red wine barrels infusing their delicious remnants into richly decident gallons of Storm King stout and Golden Monkey Belgian ale. Barley wine, too, like the patiently aged bottle Ron dropped off at my table while I had my post-tour lunch. Nicest guy ever? Probably.
If you're headed to Philadelphia, I heartily recommend paying Ron and the rest of the Victory team a visit. Victory is one of those craft breweries that manages to balance a dogged dedication to the small/traditional/independent craft beer ethos while also enjoying distribution in 29 states, a strong brand presence and growing sales. Their new 40 acre space will host both an expanded production facility as well as a gathering space where Ron hopes to have live music and events. We can't wait to get in on that. Cheers, Ron!
Jai Alai IPA, Cigar City Brewing Company
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!
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.
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.
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!
A craft cider that surprisingly stands up to its maltier compatriots.
A few Saturdays ago, I was stumbling around the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market after enjoying a leisurely early morning off-leash stroll around Prospect Park with my pup, Miko. After picking out a fresh, disgusting dog bone from the butcher stand, we wandered over to a stand I had never seen before -- Bad Seed Hard Cider. They were perched right next to the cider donut stand, so I'm not sure how I missed them before -- I'm a big fan of those little donuts.
Now, I wouldn't describe myself as a cider fan. I'm about as interested in cider as I am wine -- it's not that I'm against it, just not so into it. A cold, crisp glass of cider or white wine has its place: a hot, muggy Summer day or a September afternoon spent apple picking in the country. But, I wouldn't order one at a bar. No, sir.
Despite my prejudice, something about Bad Seed caught my eye. Maybe it was the adorable typeface on the label or the cute apple farmers behind the counter. Whatever it was, I'm glad I stopped by. Bad Seed features a sizable fleet of styles most cider drinkers couldn't dream of -- things like Belgian-style cider, a bourbon barrel aged variety and a hopped cider called "India Pale Cider" or "IPC." Craft cider? This is a thing? Apparently. Maybe it's a marketing ploy to pull us craft beer geeks off of our high hoppy horses... but it worked! I picked up a bottle of IPC and ran home to give it a try.
While they don't have a website, with a little research I dug up an Almanac Weeky story that explains a bit of Bad Seed's background. Devin Britton and Albert Wilklow started the operation in 2012, housing a fleet of 150-glasson tanks on their Highland, New York property. Devin's a cook and makes all the recipes while Albert grows the apples. Like all great craft brewers, these fellas clearly aren't afraid of a little experimentation. Besides the requisite fruit, the ciders feature an array of other add-ins, like orange peel, coriander, wine and wild yeasts and of course, hops.
The cider pours a hazy tangerine-yellow, topped with a tiny bit of white head. The aroma is a little sweeter than I expected, with some grassy notes from the hops. It's fruit forward, with a big punch of sour apple juice that overwhelms the palate at first. Then comes the hops, cutting a clear path through the sweet-and-sour apples to thankfully dry out the whole experience. The citrus and the apple play nicely together on the palate and the cider smoothes out by the finish. I could have done with a bit more hops, but that's me and as I said, I'm not much of a cider. This cider does do a great job of balancing complex flavor with universal appeal, which isn't an easy feat. Hats off to the creators.
If you're around NYC, head to your local market and ask around for Bad Seed Cider Company. I'm thinking their bourbon barrel aged cider ought to be pretty damn good... like vanilla ice cream meets apple pie with a pool of Makers Mark on top? Yes, please.
Positive Contact Imperial Belgian-Style Witbier, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
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.
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.
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!
Hoppy Valley Session IPA, Phoenix Ale Brewery
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.
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.
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.
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...
Mystic River IPA, Cottrell Brewing Company
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...
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).
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.
This stop on the 50 States journey has been fittingly short and sweet, just like Connecticut. Up next: Dogfish Delaware!
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.
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.
White Rascal Belgian Witbier, Avery Brewing Company & Dale's Pale Ale, Oskar Blues
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!
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
[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!
“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.
Next up, I'll cheers the Constitution State with a Connecticut review.
Your Guide to Spring Seasonals
It's 48 degrees outside right now and according to my iPhone, tomorrow will get up to 61. While those numbers are far from promising, my fellow New Yorkers and I are banking on a smooth slide in to Spring this week. It just has. to. be. here. already.
The Mets have hit the field for another losing season, we're rounding out another bracket busting NCAA tournament and yesterday I walked from the LES to SoHo without wanting to die. So, it's time to abandon your porters and stouts in favor of my new favorite flavor: the Saison.
Historically, saisons weren't brewed to have similar characteristics. They simply referred to a group of beers fermented during the cooler months and stored for Spring enjoyment by hard working Belgian farmers. That's why we also call them farmhouse ales. Today, saisons share a number of qualities -- they're generally fruity, highly carbonated and spicy. That's why they pair so well with a sunny afternoon, Ok, there's your background. On to the drinking.
My Top Five Saisons (in no particular ranking order)
I love this big bottle/tap release from Brooklyn Brewery. I don't usually love Brooklyn's beers, but I LOVE this saison. Its green apple crispness, bubbly, champagne body and subtle sweetness at the finish make it the perfect companion for oyster happy hour (one of my favorite Spring time activities). It also pairs nicely with a good old New England style crab or lobster boil. If you find yourself in NYC and in need of some seaside-esque happy hour goodness, check out Lobster Joint on Houston St. in the Lower East Side. It's a little bright inside for my drinking-habit-tastes but the happy hour is on point -- $4 Sorachi Aces (all drafts, for that matter), $1 oysters & $4 lobster, crab cake or fried oyster sliders. I'm not sure how they stay in business but I'm sure glad they do.
Ain't nothing wrong with watching an adorable girl kiss some lobsters while you enjoy your Sorachi Ace. Nope.
Ommegang's Hennepin was one of the first craft beers I laid lips on and it continues to be one of my go-to's for a refreshing warm weather pint. Back in college, I knew a bunch of kids who worked at a cafe in the East Village. Even though they only had two taps, one was always dedicated to Hennepin and we consistently drained it. I'm not ashamed to say it went well with breakfast eggs. Nicely balanced with a mix of coriander, herbal spiciness and sweet orange peel, the mouth feel is smooth and the finish is surprisingly dry. It goes down easy and stands up well next to almost any snack. Careful with that high ABV though -- it's well hidden.
This one took some digging to find when it was first released in 2010. I was living in Northern California and had to drive about two hours to a liquor store in a lonely strip mall east of San Jose to get my hand on a single 12oz bottle. These days, however, the collaborative saison is getting some much deserved added distribution and you can pick one up in most Dogfish Head sanctioned outlets. The beer itself is surprisingly easy going given the punch these three breweries usually pack, a quality I wholeheartedly appreciate in a saison. Not as sweet as many of its brethren, the du Buff garners a mellow, mid-palate very herbal spice kick and crisp, peppery lemongrass finish to dry it out. I'm particularly fond of the beer's limey-ness, as it cuts through my favorite early Summer snack (carne asada tacos, duh) like a shiny knife.
Here's a sweet little video about this craft beer meeting of the minds.
Wild card! This sneaky little can makes its way onto shelves during the coldest months of the year when most American beer nerds are knee deep in bourbon barrel aged stouts and coffee soaked porters. I stumbled upon Sneak Attack's gleaming cream colored face last January and it surely brightened up a cold, blustery Brooklyn night. I cracked the tab, poured it slowly into a semi-clean pint glass and... Coriander! White peppercorn! Clementines! Tangy lemon! Champagne! Bubbly and refreshing but strong enough in spice to hold up against any slow cooked Winter's meal... I can't wait to enjoy this sucker alongside some Summer BBQ, come to think of it. Pork shoulder & a Sneak Attack? Fire up the grill already.
My family lives in Connecticut, so when I visit I try to vet their local "package stores" for any interesting New England-centric releases. That's how I found Two Roads Brewing Co. (Stratford, CT). It happened to be the day after Easter, so I grabbed a six pack of their freshly debuted saison, Worker's Comp, and settled down with some Chinese takeout (Yes, I know I live in spitting distance of the best Chinatown outside of China but there's just something about suburban Chinese food that makes it SO unexplainably amazing -- anyone feel me?). Anyways, this saison only enhanced my General Tso's tangy, spicy deliciousness and stood confidently by me as I destroyed some salty Chow Mein. The young brewery managed to strike a balance between juicy tropical fruit and dry, peppery clove without that all-to-familiar overpowering, palate-takeover sweetness. I especially liked the smooth pear -- subtle but persistant, soft enough to coat the tongue throughout. At a mere 4.8 ABV, I was able to down a few while still saving some room for illicit helpings of my Dad's Moo-Shu Pork and maintaining a decent level of familial conversation.
So, while this next week attempts to flirt with the 70s, crack open a cold, spicy-sweet Saison and enjoy this Spring weather, friends! It won't be long until we're sweating into our adjunct lagers and yearning for the porter-doused nights of yore.
Pliny the Elder Double IPA & Great Beer/Great Wine Blonde Ale, Russian River Brewing Company
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.
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.
Pliny 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.
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.
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.
A Shameless Plug for My Day Job at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
German cuisine has long been a part of New York City culture. The same jovial spirit that filled Shop Life’s John and Caroline Schneider’s saloon in the 1870s can be felt all over the city today from the Upper East Side to Astoria. On March 19th, we’ll host our fifth Culinary Conversation, The New Little Germany: New York Revisits the German Table. This event explores the city’s recent proliferation of Austro-German restaurants, cafes and, most significantly for us, Beer Gardens.[To read an abridged version of this post, click here]
It’s no secret that beer is New York’s latest beverage of choice. Venture into any bodega and you’re bound to find rows upon rows of colorful six packs overshadowing sulking cans of Bud and Coors. Craft beer bars are popping up all over the city, from cult brewery Evil Twin’s just-opened Greenpoint mega-outpost, Tørst, to exclusive, rare-beer speakeasies like Proletariat in the East Village to friendly bottle-heavy drinking havens like our Orchard Street neighbor, Top Hops. Production is experiencing a renaissance, too, with homebrew shops and breweries opening on what seems to be a monthly basis. Seems like a new trend, a passing fad? Not so, says Brooklyn Brewery’s founder Steve Hindy.
“A century ago, there were hundreds of beer gardens and halls in the city and 48 breweries in Brooklyn alone,” Hindy explained in a 2011 Crains New York article. “You see all of that coming back now.”
Throughout the 19th century, German immigrants flooded into lower Manhattan. They arrived with a passion for brewing and consuming lager, a style of beer lagered, or stored, at cool temperatures during fermentation. Lagers are often lighter and crisper than their British-style counterpoints, allowing for gregarious, communal and even family-friendly drinking for hours on end without risk of over-intoxication. Thus, the NYC beer garden was born, welcoming picnickers, merchants and hardscrabble laborers alike.
A typical New York beer-garden. Creator: Glackens, William J., 1870-1938
While German food has never truly fallen out of fashion, German-style beer gardens diminished in the face of the growing Temperance movement and subsequent Volstead Act, which outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages and forced US and foreign production lines to a halt. By Prohibition’s end, over half of American breweries failed to reopen. While New York breweries like Rheingold attempted to bounce back, they were soon overtaken by big Midwestern corporations brewing mass quantities of inexpensive adjunct lagers, or light beers that use corn or rice as filling ingredients. The popularity of these beverages, due in part to their powerful advertising capabilities, dominated market share and pushed many small breweries and import/export businesses into obscurity. That was until Cranston Act was passed by the Carter administration in 1979, legalizing craft and homebrewing and opening the door to a more beer-friendly culture.
So why are the sudden resurgence? Many market experts attribute the rise in popularity to growing national interest in craft beer, or microbrews, in tandem with New York’s rich historical relationship with German-influenced brewing and food culture.
Tuesday’s Culinary Conversation, The New Little Germany: New York Revisits the German Table, brings together renown restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton, third generation charcuterie master Jeremy Schaller, Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner of the Standard Biergarten, craft beer expert Joshua M. Bernstein and Culinary Conversations curator Jane Ziegelman. Representing different pieces of the neo-Kleindeutschland puzzle, these panelists elaborate on a three-course Austro-German menu complete with beer pairings provided by museum favorite Brooklyn Brewery and Queens newcomer SingleCut Beersmiths.
SingleCut and Brooklyn Brewery represent two poles of the NYC craft beer boom. With distribution in more than 25 states and 20 countries, Williamsburg’s beloved 28-year-old Brooklyn Brewery pumps out some of the best lagers on this side of the Atlantic, in addition to a full run of other styles. Their flagship Brooklyn Lager will be served at the event’s kick off to wash down a German-style snack from Schaller & Weber. Later in the evening, Queen’s SingleCut Beersmiths provide pairings for Chef Gutenbrunner’s appetizer and main courses. Opened in 2012, SingleCut is Queen’s first brewery since Prohibition. Their flagship 19-33 Lagrrr! is a refreshing cross between a Czech and German Pilsner with a serendipitous name – 1933 is both the taproom’s address (19-33 37th St. in Astoria) and the year Prohibition ended. Alongside the 19-33, guests will sample SingleCut’s Jan Olympic White Lagrrr!, a white lager with a lemony aroma and a pleasant, biscuity sweetness.
Barrels of 19-33 Lagrrr! line SingleCut’s Queens Brewery & Taproom
Join us March 19th and raise a pint to German culture while we transform 103 Orchard St. into a bustling New York beer garden. Tickets can be purchased by visiting our website or calling 1-877-975-3786. Tickets can also be purchased in pairs through our partners at Couples.HowAboutWe.com, including a signed copy of 97 Orchard: An Edible History by curator and host Jane Ziegelman. Cheers!
Panty Peeler Belgian Style Tripel, Midnight Sun Brewing Company
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 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.
Ok, ok, I'm sorry. I'm over the name. Now you get over it. Ok, let's move on.
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.
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"...
Snake Handler Double IPA & Flagship IPA, Good People Brewing Company
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Tune in next time as I attempt to peel the 22oz panties off Alaska...
Getting Crafty in the Kitchen
Growing up in an Italian family, my mother always cooked with wine. Whether it made it to the pan or stayed in her glass, a few bottles of red or white has always been at home in her kitchen. My kitchen, however, is much more familiar with a mason jar of sudsy stuff than any refined stemware, so I figured a series based on beer-focused recipes might be a nice one to kick off.
I'm starting with an experiment of sorts, adapting Beer Advocate's Pierogi a la Biere recipe to more adequately please my palate (and what I already had in my tiny fridge). Instead of Polish dumplings stuffed with smoked Keilbasa and German butterball potatoes soaked in a smoked lager, I substituted sweet potatoes, pancetta and sauteed chicken breast cooked down with a healthy dose of Ommegang Rare Vos Belgian Amber to balance out the earthy-salty-sweetness of the filling. And the results were epic.
I began, of course, with their basic dough recipe, though halving it and adding the Rare Vos instead of the suggested lager.
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbs Rare Vos
- 2 cups all purpose flour
Whip up the wet ingredients on low speed (or the low speed of my biceps because I don't own a mixer) and slowly incorporate the flour until the dough is smooth and pulls gently away from the sides of the bowl. Form the dough into a ball, seal it up in a Ziploc and stash it away in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes. While that refrigerator door stands gaping open, take note of the sparkling 22oz bottle of Rare Vos, only minimally tapped into thus far. I sure did, and naturally poured myself a glass of spicy, golden-hued goodness while turning my attention back to Season One of The Wire, playing all the while on my precariously positioned laptop.
Around the time poor Omar was hopping a bus to NYC, I started preparing the filling using BA's recipe for measurement guidelines.
- 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled
- 4 oz Rare Vos
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 garlic cloves
- 6 oz pancetta, chopped
- 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 large chicken breasts cut into small cubes
- 5 more oz Rare Vos
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 cup Gruyere, shredded
Throw the sweet potatoes in a medium-sized pot, adding the first round of ale and enough water to cover. Toss in the garlic and set that baby to boil. Once it's at a rapid boil, lower the gas and let it simmer for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when poked.
While all that's going on, top off your glass and start in on the chicken. Add your pancetta to a saute pan over medium-high heat and let the fat render for a bit, adding a tiny bit of vegetable oil if your pancetta is on the skimpy side. Once the oil is glistening in the pan, add the onions and saute them with a pinch of salt (I like to use seasoned salt, here) for about two minutes. Add the chicken cubes and keep cooking until the chicken is cooked through but not browned. Finally, add the remaning 5oz of beer and the thyme, cover and deglaze until the Rare Vos is almost completely evaporated and the chicken takes on a nice, dark golden color.
Once the potatoes are soft, drain the water and place them back in the pot. Add the chicken-pancetta-onion mess from the saute pan and smash it all up together. It should be the consistency of chunky mashed potatoes. Cool the mash down the room temperature and then fold in the shredded Gruyere. Now it's time to make these dumplings.
Roll out your dough on a well floured surface and cut circles using the lip of a pint glass. Tuck spoonfulls of filling in the center of each circle and paint the edges with a little egg mixture (1 egg beaten slightly with water or, my choice, more beer). When it's all pretty, fold the dough in half, forming a little stuffed crescent. Crimp the edges with your thumbs and set the pierogi aside.
When all the dough and filing have united, heat a new pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop about four baby dumplings at a time into the pot and cook them for four to five minutes in small batches, as they'll expand in the water and you don't want to crowd them. Fish them out with a slotted spoon when they're done boiling, then lay the pierogis on a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 400F.
Once all the little guys are big and boiled, do like I did and pop them in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Or, if you prefer a tastier but slightly less healthy option, drop the boiled pierogies into a skillet with a 1/4 inch of vegetable oil and fry those suckers up. Your arteries will hate you but at least you'll taste some happiness.
Serve over a bed of fresh, bitter greens with a side of sour cream, extra cheese to throw on top and a dash of your favorite hot sauce. Oh, and don't forget to refill your beer glass.
Happy cooking, craftheads!
P.S. That really is my mom in the video.
Gilded Otter Brewpub, New Paltz, NY
A Sunday trip upstate led us to the Gilded Otter brewpub in New Paltz, NY (but don't click on that link, because their website is horrendous). The "Garden Party" featured 8 three ounce pours on an adorable little pizza peel thing. They include six of their own craft brews, one Black & Tan and one additional glass of Doc's cider to finish it off.
The place was all quant and nice and I liked that the brewing equipment was right there in the center of the restaurant instead of hidden away in some back warehouse you have to creepily peer through windows to see. We were surrounded by some serious looking copper boiler kettles, too.
The beers, truth be told, were lacking. The Huguenot St. American Lager, at 3.8%, was mild with no bite -- super bisquity with a strong yeasty finish. Not my thing. The IPA was similarly disappointing and only 5.2%. It's lame gravity was matched by its lame hop profile, with a little bit of pine and no kick at all. I felt similarly about the Amber and the Scottish Ale -- low gravity, bland and malty. The stars of the party, if you will, were the cream stout and the pale, which were nice and drinkable. The Stone House Cream Stout had a pretty head and a smooth, roasty body (6.2%), while the Rail Trail Pale Ale had crisp floral notes and lots of fresh grapefruit on the palate (5.2%).
If you find yourself upstate on a rainy sunday, get a pint of the stout and forego the Garden Party -- it's not worth the price of admission.