Monday, January 31, 2011

Long Trail IPA

Okay...this one finally makes sense. No stupid pictures of "The Bearenstein Bears Throw A Kegger". No straying way outside of the intended style. Just good beer to speak for itself.

Long Trail IPA is an unfiltered, 5.9% ABV, 56 IBU, hazy butterscotch colored brew with a two-finger, lacy white head of foam. It smells of grapefruit from its pungent hops, and of pilsner malt. The label on this brew showcases a simple rendering of the Long Trail brewery nestled in some woods next to a babbling brook.

The first sip of this beer is citrusy hops and warm alcohol. The hops are ever-present and provide an awesome, steady bite throughout the beer. The finish is simply more bitter hops lingering on the palate. This is a great one...pick some up!

Long Trail Harvest Ale

Is there anything good about Mondays? Only when they are winding down and you have a beer in hand...

Tonight's brew is another from Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, and that cartoon bear obsessed brewery that uses only local products to make their offerings. What is it with those bears anyway? The label on this beer has the famous Green Acres scene with the guy holding his pitchfork and the wife with her picnic basket - in the form of cartoon animals.

Long Trail Harvest Ale is a 4.4% ABV, opaque mahogany colored brew that pours to a one-finger head of off-white, small bubbles. The beer smells of sweet amber and wheat malts, and at first taste is light and flavorful. The malts produce a dry, red wine-like mouthfeel that is unique to a winter seasonal. The brew is consistently sweet and fruity throughout, with a crisp finish. Good beer, but never what I am expecting from the style!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Roanoke Railhouse Track 1

Three cheers for yet another new local brewery pumping out some great suds! This beer hails from the Star City - Roanoke, Virginia - just under an hour from my home. After this brew I am extremely excited about their newest release, Loose Caboose. But back to the beer in hand...


Roanoke Railhouse Track 1 is a self-stated Munich Dunkel and currently serves as their flagship brew. The label portrays a steaming locomotive below the brewery's "RR" logo incorporating the city's star moniker.


The beer itself is a dark amber color with a one-finger head of lacy, off-white bubbles. It smells of amaretto and roasted malts, but heavy chocolate and caramel aromas give way to more subtle flavoring in the first sip. The body of this brew is much lighter than I was expecting, but without taking anything away from the taste. It is almost a nut-brown in flavor, but much more thin and easy to drink.

There is some brown sugar sweetness in the middle, and the beer finishes crisp with some lingering piny hop flavor. Kudos to brewmaster Ryan Worthington - I see big things in the future for these guys!

Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball

This beer contributed to the condition it is named after the following morning...It was the last beer of a pretty crazy night, but fortunately was sampled at a point where my tastebuds were still coherent. Still, the 9% ABV did me no favors!

Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball is a seasonal brew from Northern California, and is probably one of the heaviest malted beers that come out of this place. The label has an eyeball that quite obviously needs some Visine, with the phrase, "Here's Lookin' 'Atcha!" below it.

The beer pours a reddish-mahogany color, we will call it black cherry, with a one-finger head of off-white foam that dissipates quickly. The brew smells of rose hips and cane sugar, and the first taste is vanilla. Booze heavy, this ale has tons of roasted malt that adds some earthy flavors along with caramel and nutty essences. The medium-bodied beer finishes dry and sweet.

Good beer, just watch out - that ABV sneaks up on you!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Atlantic Brewing Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale

I'm sitting down to enjoy a late viewing of this week's The Office with its guest appearance from Ricky Gervais. A good beer run today yielded some interesting things, so I am gonna pop something open to wind down the evening.

Kind of interesting to me that this brew made it to my local craft beer store...this is the first time I have seen anything from this brewery, or from the state of Maine for that matter.

Atlantic Brewing Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale is a bronze-amber colored brew with a two-finger head of off-white fizzy bubbles. The label is emblazoned with a cartoonish scene of a fishing ship in what one can only assume is Bar Harbon, Maine.

This beer smells just like a blueberry muffin. Nothing else. For whatever reason I was expecting this to be an all-wheat beer - maybe after the Long Trail Blackbeary? These are NOT the same beers. This brew tastes much more like the blueberry was infused into the brewing process rather than added after the fact. I tend to enjoy the flavor of blueberries a lot, so this is a good pairing to me. It also helps that Bar Harbor is famous for their fresh blueberries - my parents just visited last year and brought back some fresh fruit and handmade blueberry syrup - awesome stuff!

The beer itself is very light in mouthfeel and seems low in alcohol content as well (it is not listed on the bottle or their website). It is a crisp, refreshing beer with a slightly biscuity flavor from the lighter malts and some serious sweetness that stems from the fruit. Not an incredible beer, but highly drinkable and different!

Crown Brewing Java Porter

I met up with my friend Dick today for a beer run and to talk about his future contributions to the blog. If you didn't catch his first guest review you can find it here.

We had planned to check out a local pub for lunch, but ended up being so disappointed in the place we decided to head over to one of our old standbys instead. We get to the other restaurant only to discover that they break for a few hours before dinner. This means we missed our chance for any grub and the ability to take advantage of their fine tap list...CRAP!

To end this game of hurry-up and wait, we just went back to my house to crack open the second beer from Crown Brewing in Indiana that my co-worker brought me back from his trip home over Christmas. The major difference to this beer is the size - it is a growler!

Crown Brewing Java Porter is made up of the brewery's award winning Industrial Porter (Bronze medal in the 2010 World Beer Cup) that has cold-brewed coffee added. The result is a 6.1% ABV dark brown ale that pours to a thin head of khaki foam.

The beer smells of spicy hops, fresh ground coffee bean and semi-sweet chocolate. I am incredibly surprised by how well this beer held its carbonation! It has been sitting in a growler in my fridge for nearly a month, but the brewery did a great job vacuum sealing the lid with a plastic seal. This is a very flavorful porter with dark roasted malts that fill your mouth with smoke and sweetness. The hops balance it out in perfect form.

We drank about half of the large bottle, and then I took it with me to my in-laws' house for my Father-in-law and Brother-in-law to sample. All that tried it agreed it was an incredible brew!

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil

Often among beer review sites you will hear a thick stout being described as similar to dirty old engine oil. This Scottish brewery took that description and ran with it! Ken Brooker, the founder of Harviestoun brewery, spent many years of his life working on design prototypes for FORD. Thus, an easy choice for the name of this self-proclaimed, "viscous, chocolatey, roasty" brew.

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil is a 6% ABV, black beer with ruby accents and no head to speak of. The label features what looks like an old Model-T for obvious reasons. The beer smells entirely of dark chocolate and espresso - dark all around!

The first taste follows the nose with dark roasted, smoky flavors and a thick creamy texture. A bit of hop bitterness rounds out the middle and finishes sweet. Good beer!

Bell's Expedition Stout

This brew is consistently on "Best Brew" lists everywhere, so it was just a matter of time before I picked one (or two) up. It also comes as no surprise that yet another beer from Bell's is gaining notoriety!

This particular brew is supposed to be good straight out of the bottle, but it is also recommended as ideal to set aside for aging. With this in mind, I will be sampling this one tonight and setting another aside to cellar for one year to compare at that later date.

Bell's Expedition Stout is a 10.5% ABV brew that is EXTREMELY thick in the pour and black as night, with a one-finger head of tiny brown bubbles. The label displays a simple compass emblem on tan parchment paper.

This beer smells of floral hops with some licorice, chocolate and coffee notes. There is also noticeably some earthy aroma including smoked peat. The first taste is java and hop bitterness, followed by some sweet molasses and chocolate. The big, heavy mouthfeel leaves a film on your teeth and is quite boozy. The brew finishes with lingering spicy hops on your tongue. I have a feeling this beer will smoothen out after aging, and then just watch out!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Troegs Java Head Stout

I hate to judge a beer by its cover, but this is going to be good...Why shouldn't it be? Everything from Troegs rocks! Here is just a sample of what is written on the bottle, "...is passed through a blend of coffee beans and whole flower hops - akin to a french press..." Awesome.

Troegs Java Head Stout is a 7.5% ABV, dark brown brew with a one-finger head of chocolate-colored foam. The logo on the label is a sweet collage of pint glasses, coffee pots and beans, and filigree that come together to make up a skull.

This beer smells beautifully of a mix of citrusy hops, cocoa and java, and the first taste is all of the flavors in the nose simply intensified. There are delicious smoky and roasted flavors combined with hop bitterness and chocolate malt sweetness and a bit of nuttiness in the dry finish. I told you it would be good!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guest Review - Otter Creek Black Alpine IPA

Tonight we went to my parents' for dinner and  met up with my brother, sister and nephew. Mom made an awesome chicken dish with peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini and asparagus over rice. 


Kinda looks like a jumbled mess, but it was DELICIOUS! 

Well, I knew we would be getting home late and I probably wouldn't have time to post, so I decided to put up a review from a new - hopefully soon-to-be very active - contributor to Stay Thirsty! This guy is one of the buddies I am constantly referring to on the site...He, along with a couple other guys were ultimately responsible for me starting this site, and he is an active contributor to my beer fridge! (Which is one of the reasons why I let him come around) His wife is from New Jersey, so I constantly give them hell, both in person and in typed word. However, this does contribute to some otherwise hard to find brews to review so I am thankful for their willingness to share.

So, Without further ado, here is Dick!...

This is officially my first post to www.staythirstyblog.com and I am so excited about the opportunity! 

Let me begin by offering a proper introduction: Hi! I am Dick! I am a lover of everything hoppy, flavorful, and delicious! Here is one of my many mantras: “I am not an alcoholic, I just choose to drink a lot!” I digress. As my first of hopefully many posts I would like to begin with the Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA. I found this brew in a local beer shop and immediately was drawn to the “New Style” located on the label. I enjoy all things new and different!

When I popped the top I was greeted by a familiar smell: tree sap. Having worked on my grandfather’s tree farm I am very familiar with this pungent smell. If I could make two different types of cologne I would start with a nice “hoppy” scent (perhaps I would call it: “Hopercrombie”) and my second smell would definitely be tree sap. I felt like I was wandering in the pine forests of Middlebury, Vermont, soaking in all of the flavor in a bottle.

Otter Creek Black Alpine IPA is a 6%ABV/60IBU dark brew. When I began to pour I immediately noticed the three fingered mocha head. Upon my first sip roasted malts, caramel, and several hop flavors began to dance in my mouth. This brew was flavorful and complex! The brew ended with a light malt flavor that lingered for several minutes.   

Dick gives this brew a 3.75 kegs out of 5. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Williamsburg AleWerks Coffeehouse Stout

Why I waited so late in the night to drink this brew is beyond me...caffeine is usually my go-to if I am TRYING to stay awake - it doesn't do me any favors when I should have been in bed an hour ago...But I am hoping for a late morning at work due to the sleet/snow/ice we got today, and even if not this beer was sooo worth it!

Williamsburg AleWerks Coffeehouse Stout is a viscous, dark-brown/nearly black brew with a one-finger tan head of small bubbles. The label is simple, but well inspired with a bag of coffee beans on the front. No ABV listed...

This is the one seasonal brew I was unable to sample at the brewery, so I was pretty excited to get my hands on this one.

The beer smells pretty heavily of what I would call a "breakfast blend" java - mild-medium intensity from a caffeine standpoint. Side note: this is some special coffee. I have never heard of Guatemala Antigua coffee, but I would now like to get my hands on some! I also get some chocolate, and this is noticeably a milk stout.

First sip is slightly bitter from the coffee and hop addition, and blends to a sweeter middle of caramel and chocolate. The sweetness cascades in the dry finish, and there is surprisingly some spice present for a pleasant aftertaste. The mouthfeel is fairly light and makes for a very easy-drinking beer. I really can not get enough of this brewery right now!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Corsendonk Christmas Ale

This beauty is a Belgian Abbey-style Christmas ale with a "World Class" rating on BeerAdvocate.com. This was a truly awesome brew, the only downside was the tiny 8.5 oz bottle that it came in!

Corsendonk Christmas Ale is an 8.5% ABV beer that is a dark mahogany color with a huge, three-inch head of tan rocky foam. The label is emblazoned with a snowy scene replete with a fully decorated Christmas tree, star and the brewery's crest.

This beer is very spicy in the nose with some fruity esters - maybe grapes or raisins. The first taste is a bit overwhelming in its complexity. It takes me a while to pick out some of the flavors, but eventually I gather salty, nutty and sweet tastes - it all reminds me of a delicious, boozy trail mix! There is some tree fruit present, but the majority of the flavors are made up of biscuity malts and spicy yeast. An amazing beer!

Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat

Although I have enjoyed most of the offerings from this enigmatic brewery in Vermont, there are some things about them that just keep me confused. For one, what's with the corny names and juvenile cartoony labels? Adding "beary" to the title, really? And another thing...this is the third beer from these guys where I have felt the style just doesn't follow the norm.

Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat is a lambic-style weizen that was once offered as a seasonal for the brewery, but became popular enough to make the jump to year-round offering. The beer is a 4.0% ABV, completely clear gold color with a three-finger white head of lacy foam.

This brew smells of pilsner malt and berries, and the first taste is sweet and buttery. It actually has a lot more flavor than I was expecting for such a light color and alcohol content. I will say this, the beer must have been made so you can drink a lot of it, because it goes down fast!

Interestingly, I do not taste ANY wheat at all in this beer. The finish a bit tart and dry, but the brew is both crisp and refreshing all the way around.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Flying Fish Exit 16 we - Wild Rice Double IPA

I have loved everything I have sampled from this brewery, but I have a few choice words about the state it calls home. I mean, there is a reason they call it the Armpit of America...

This beer is even worse off because it is made to represent Hackensack - an area known for landfills and pipelines. It hear it is beautiful this time of year!

In fact, Flying Fish's Exit Series must be the only good thing coming out of NJ! I believe NY Governor David Paterson would agree...

      

Flying Fish Exit 16 we - Wild Rice Double IPA is the fourth release of the Exit Series, and my fourth reviewed. The beer is an extremely hazy light-amber color with particulates floating in it, and a three-finger head of white, foamy lace. This brew smells very floral with some citrus notes of tangerine and mango.

The first taste is full of hoppy goodness, with grassy, citrus and spicy hops. The rice is actually incredibly easy to pick out, and adds some delicious flavor and texture with both brown and white wild rices mixed. I kinda feel like I am selling this beer short with my description, but it is an AWESOME brew! I would compare it to a cross between Great Divide's Samurai Rice Ale mixed with a citrus-infused Sierra Nevada Torpedo!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Four Loko - Loko Blue Raspberry

Everyone has heard the news - Four Loko is the controversial caffeinated alcoholic beverage that has caused a stir all over the country due to its popularity among college students. In Virginia specifically, it (the caffeinated version) has been banned since November 17th, 2010. A fact that makes this post a little more interesting...

I found this can in a local Kroger, and a cashier confirmed (always the most believable source) that stores have the right to return the product to its distributors for a fraction of its market value, or continue to sell the product until their inventory is exhausted. Guess which this grocer decided to act on?

Four Loko - Loko Blue Raspberry is a 12% ABV, fizzy, neon electric blue malt beverage with artificial flavors added.

I just cracked this puppy open, and I already have a feeling that my morning run is going to have to be postponed....with it vented, the noxious odor of a wine cooler (only MUCH more boozy) is released - stifling my nostrils with the sickly sweet smells of Dum-Dums, Blow Pops, Jolly Ranchers and a million other candies that should NOT be associated with alcohol.

First sip and I am greeted with the GOD AWFUL taste of cheap wine, fake blueberries and sugar. Oh the sweetness...I actually throw up in my mouth a little after each sip, but I will drink this entire can - on principal alone. I try chugging it, and this is a VERY bad idea - it only makes my eyes water. God, this can is never ending. It is like a Niagara Falls of vomit inducing Indigo syrup. It burns like whiskey going down, and Oh, by the way, the can looks like a cross between a lava lamp and a camoflauged acid trip.

This stuff is made in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a place where they apparently have nothing better to do than make up weird, hockey-esque games with a netted stick and ball and crazy-disgusting alcoholic energy drinks - Hey wait, that sounds like where I live!

I am only half-way through this stuff and I am buzzing hard! Its been a few minutes and the caffeine starts to go to work - I can feel my heartbeat in my face!...and I am now tripping balls because I am watching Disney's The Jungle Book with my daughter...This movie was made in the 1960's! The vultures are awesome, I swear Bahgeera the panther is gay, and at this point in the night I am thoroughly convinced that Baloo is the coolest animated character of all time. This dude has got it figured out! My "bear" necessities are good food, good beer, and some good sleep to ward off the hangover I am going to have from this blue sh*t! My tongue looks like I blew a Smurf, and it feels like I have eaten about 100 Sweet-Tarts!

Cave Creek Chili Beer

Despite its awful website and horrible backstory, this beer has developed quite a cult following! Perhaps the king of all novelty beers, this brew was named #24 of the Worst 50 Beers in the World on RateBeer.com. The beer is so bad the American Black Mountain Brewery actually went out of business in 2008, and was picked up by a Mexican brewer that must be haunted by its decision!

Cave Creek Chili Beer is a clear, brilliant gold colored beer that bubbles like champagne and produces little-to-no head. Not gonna lie, this brew smells like jalapenos and Corona light...Of course, my stupid friend says, "In a strange way I kinda like it". Now I LOVE spicy food, but this is just plain ridiculous!

First sip, and there is definitely some chipotle, smoky flavor to this brew - not good, but present. This tastes like cheap beer with pepper juice added. It burns at the back of the throat, and the aftertaste is simply horrendous. The one redeeming factor/horrible life decision is the drunk chili in the bottom of the bottle.

Just like the worm in a bottle of Tequila, whoever finishes the bottle has to drink the worm...So I take a bite of the pepper and start to gag. The jalapeno at this point smells like a pickle, and tastes like burnt popcorn - just completely defeats the purpose of buying this beer...It is awful! DO NOT BUY!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout

Yet another gold medal winner from Anderson Valley! This beer has won several gold including from the GABF and the World Beer Cup. Its name was derived from the Boontling (slang from Anderson Valley) description of the mighty Redwoods of the Hendy Woods Forest.

As I got ready to crack this beer open, I noticed something on the label that made me feel kind of dumb - the famous Booneville Bear, "Barkley", that I have seen several times has moose antlers! It only took me 5 of their brews to realize this...I had to figure out what the deal was here, so I pulled up their website and it all came together. Barkley isn't a bear, he is a BEER! - A cross between a bear and a deer. Corny, but funny all the same.

Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout is a 5.7% ABV, dark brown ale with mahogany accents, and pours to a three-finger, rocky head of tan foam. The beer smells of chocolate, sweet cola and fresh baked bread from the addition of rolled oats.

The first sip of this beer is creamy, with earthy notes, has a sweet chocolate and caramel malt middle, and a very herbal, hoppy finish. I can certainly see why this beer is a multiple award winner - it is a very unique, flavorful stout!

Left Hand Fade to Black Ale

The first Fade to Black ale won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the Foreign Stout category, so you know Volume 2 is going to be epic!

Left Hand collaborated with Brewery Norrebro in Denmark to make this brew, and it is a dark beer, both in style and in back story! Their website describes it as developed with smoked malts to reenact/recreate the smells of the burning thatched roofs of European villages and towns from invading hordes. What a crazy inspiration for this Smoked Baltic Porter!

Left Hand Fade to Black Volume 2 is a 7.8% ABV, black ale that pours to a thin, tan head of small bubbles. It smells heavily of rich, dark chocolate and sweet caramel. From the first sip the smoky flavor makes its entrance, followed by some truly complex flavors: chocolate milk, bubblegum and raisins. This is a truly beautiful beer!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Harpoon 100 Barrel Series - Single Hop ESB

Hump Day, and time for a much-needed beer review!...and this is a good one.

My previous experiences with Harpoon left something to be desired, as I found both their Summer Ale and their UFO Hefeweizen to be lacking in overall flavor - just kind of bland really. Well this one makes up for all that!

The Harpoon Hundred Barrel Series is exactly what it sounds like: a limited run series of brews that are produced in small quantities (100 barrels, duh!) and never made again. There are several different brewers that work for Harpoon, and each are featured on the label of the particular brews they are responsible for in this series. Mine just happened to be Batch #31.

This Single Hop ESB is a 5.8% ABV, hazy copper colored brew with a one-finger, white head of small bubbles that thin to a ring. It smells of sweet caramel or butterscotch and floral/piney hops. The first taste is surprising, with a bit more bitterness than I am accustomed to from an ESB. It is also odd in that rather than starting sweet and finishing with a bitter hop aftertaste, this brew seems to be backwards - with the sweetness in the end. This difference, when paired with the salty, biscuity flavors of the malts attribute to a great tasting beer!

This brew is incredibly unique as it is the first beer in the world to utilize the American Delta hop - a new varietal strain that is developed as a cross between Fuggle and Cascade plants. Not only is it the first, but it is also the ONLY type of hop used in the beer, thus the single-hop nametag.

This beer is fantastic, it is just a shame that it was produced in such small batches - and is so hard to get your hands on! Keep it up Harpoon!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Crown Brewing Company Crown Brown

Been a lazy day today...spent most of it just sitting on the couch watching the craziest post-season NFL games I think I've ever seen! The 7-9 (now 8-9) Seahawks move on, while the incredible Peyton Manning and his Colts lost to Dirty Sanchez' Jets? What will tomorrow bring?

Anyway, this has allowed me to crack open a bottle of something special...a brew brought to me all the way from Crown Point, Indiana. That's right, my buddy brought me a couple goodies back from his trip home over Christmas!

The label of this brew is pretty plain with just a crown logo specific to the brewery, but when I rotate the bottle just a bit I was shocked to find a buxom brunette! I have no idea what this has to do with the beer, but its kind of interesting.

Crown Brewing Company Crown Brown is an easy drinking, 4.1% ABV, dark brown brew with ruby accents. This beer pours to a two-finger khaki head of dense foam, and smells of chocolate and caramel. The first taste is sweet and nutty, and is very well balanced but with tons of flavor. The chocolate and hazelnut is great in the middle, and the dry finish has some caramel or toffee flavoring that really sets it apart.

Magic Hat Winter '10 Odd Notion

These guys really took a big step outside the box this time around! Rye malt and Hibiscus petals?...Where do they come up with the ideas for this stuff? I feel like the brewmaster was just walking through his garden and thought, "that Hibiscus is a pretty flower - I think I'll make a beer with that!".

Magic Hat Winter '10 Odd Notion is a 6% ABV, garnet colored brew with a three-finger head of off-white foam. The beer smells floral, roasty and nutty, and at first taste is very earthy with some bready yeast flavoring. The rye adds some dark malt taste without the smoky taste or texture that usually comes with it.

This beer is interesting because you can actually taste the flower petals in the brew - it makes the beer taste very clean and herbal. There is also an odd mixture of spices, I get nutmeg and allspice but without the cinnamon or cloves that normally are paired with the former - this is NOT a pumpkin beer! A little caramel sweetness in the finish is chased away by a dry, hazelnut aftertaste. My opinion of this beer was just OK, but I can appreciate the attempt to try new ingredients!

Magic Hat IPA on Tour - Encore - Winter 2010

Magic Hat did something very ballsy when they instituted their IPA on Tour seasonals into their mix packs each quarter. The general public tends to find this style just too bitter and hoppy for their light beer conditioned tastebuds...but I could not be happier about their decision!

This is another MH brew with an awesome label - It features a rock concert background with a hand holding a lit lighter and ENCORE written in the flame.

Magic Hat Encore is a 6% ABV, hazy, light-orange colored brew with a big three-finger rocky head of off-white foam. The beer smells floral and spicy, and at first sip has some definite citrus presence. I get grapefruit and lemon zest stemming from the flowery and delicious whole-leaf hop flavor. The heavy hoppy aftertaste lingers on the center of the tongue for an awesome finale. I'm holding my lighter up for more right now!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Long Trail Hibernator

This is my third brew from Long Trail in as many weeks! Obviously I have enjoyed them enough to keep sampling, and this one just happens to be an unfiltered winter ale.

The label on this beer is hilarious - it features a bear in a lounge chair drinking a Long Trail and smoking a pipe, with the two human heads of hunters hanging just above his fireplace mantle.

Long Trail Hibernator is a 6% ABV, hazy, caramel-colored brew with a three-finger head of off-white, small lacy bubbles. It smells of freshly baked biscuits with brown sugar and hints of nutmeg. The first taste of this beer is very bready - like a dark malted ESB. A little salty and sweet with faint hop bitterness in the dry finish.

I really enjoyed this beer because it is no where near as heavy as the name suggests, or as the winter ale style typically runs. I could drink quite a few of these!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

With a tagline that reads, "You're Not Worthy", you know the brewers have got to have some big balls. But Stone never fails to back up its mouthy reputation. The "basic" brew (if you can call it that) Arrogant Bastard is one of my all-time favorites, and believe it or not can be attributed to breaking me into the realm of craft beer.

Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale is a 7.2% ABV, hazy, dark amber/mahogany colored brew with a two-finger head of off-white lacy foam. The beer smells of sweet caramel malt with vanilla bean and spices. There is also an aroma of smokiness from oak wood chips it is aged on.

The first sip is pleasantly hoppy and bitter, but the smoky flavors jump in followed immediately by sweet malt. The texture is nice and thick, and the mouthfeel is incredibly dry. This allows the bitter, earthy aftertaste to grab ahold of your palate and overcome the senses.

The label of this bottle exclaims the mindset of the Stone brewers that developed this beer, "Too many strive towards complacency as a goal...". This is certainly not the case with this brew! The oak aging simply enhances an already incredible beer. I recommend going out to find a bottle right now!

Williams Bros Brewing Co. Fraoch Heather Ale

Back in September, I wrote about my in-laws' Summer trip to Scotland and the whisky they brought me back. What I failed to mention was that they also brought back a gift for my wife, a pair of earrings and necklace made from Scottish Heather - a shrub that is probably the most recognizable floral symbol of that country.

I was familiar with Heather before their trip, but my wife's jewelry sparked my memory - and just in time to notice this beer in my local craft brew shop.

You can see the purple-flowering plant in such films as Braveheart (one of my favorites!) and Trainspotting, and a relatively unknown fact is that it has been used in beer brewing for thousands of years - it pre-dates hops as a bittering agent!

Williams Bros Brewing Co. Fraoch Heather Ale has been brewed in Scotland since 2000 BC using Heather flowers and Scotch malt. The beer is a light amber/dark goldenrod color with a two-finger head of white, lacy foam and smells very floral, sweet and has some notes of sourdough bread.

The addition of the Heather gives this brew a very herbal presence without the hop bitterness that normally accompanies these flavors. The beer is easy-drinking with a medium-bodied mouthfeel and a slightly oily texture. The finish is very dry, almost wine-like, but has a great floral and sweet aftertaste.

This is a very good beer - but I would love to try it in country!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ommegang Three Philosophers

After sampling Hennepin from Brewery Ommegang, I couldn't get my hands on this brew fast enough! My first quadrupel ale, this beer is a Belgian-style blend of 98% ale with 2% Belgian Kriek (cherry beer) mixed in.

Ommegang Three Philosophers is a 9.8% ABV, beautiful dark hazy-amber beer with a three-finger, foamy head of small tan bubbles. This brew smells slightly of cherries and spicy yeast with some nutmeg.

The first sip is highly carbonated and warming. You can immediately taste the yeast, followed by sweet roasted malts and dark cherries. The mouthfeel is thick with a peppery, and sour fruity finish. What a great beer! I will be picking up EVERYTHING that these guys offer.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout

I've been waiting to find this beer for nearly two years...It is the last of the OB standard line of brews that I had yet to sample. Let me list its accomplishments: Gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Championships, one of Maxim's Top 25 American Beers, a 100 rating on RateBeer.com and an "Outstanding A" from both the brothers at BeerAdvocate.com and from over 1,300 reviews. Whew, that's a mouthfull!

Named after its monster ABV, 10.5%, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout is a deep, inky black with a one-finger dark brown head of small bubbles. The brew smells of chocolate and smoked peat, and the first sip is heavy dark chocolate bitterness.

This is followed by roasted barley that comes in with its smoky, earthy flavors and texture - the richness is almost too much, but not quite. The killer IBU rating (98) bring added complexity and hop flavors that help to break down some of the sweetness and allow for a more savory finish. What an awesome beer!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Craft Beer Conundrum: Warm Bottles vs Cold Bottles

I have long wondered if those warm bottles I grab from my local make-your-own-six-pack craft beer store represent the true quality of the beer I am buying, or if the warming and cooling in transit/storage has a detrimental effect on flavor. Obviously I carefully check the bottling date of each brew that I purchase, but I have always been a little paranoid that I am buying sub-par beer because it isn't in a cooler - especially those high-dollar bombers or specialty one-offs!

I'd rather drink warm piss than this cold!
It's always a green bottle...
So, I decided to do a little research. After reading just a few articles I felt stupid - I know enough about the brewing process to where I should have realized that each beer is bottled cold - they even talked about it briefly on a Brew Masters episode. This means that ALL beer is going to warm up at some point - so the constant changing of temperature doesn't matter much as long as it isn't extreme.

Ironically, the best sources that I found to credit this epiphany are both local - within 2 hours from my house!

David at Musings Over a Pint is based in Fredricksburg, Virginia and pointed out a note from Taylor Smack, the brewmaster of one of my favorite local brewpubs, Blue Mountain Brewery. Make sure to visit David's site and show him some love! Again, it is http://www.musingsoverapint.com/.

The note from Taylor is posted in its entirety below, or you can find it in its original context on Facebook here.

Warm beer to-go...aarrghhh!!!

by Blue Mountain Brewery on Friday, December 17, 2010 at 1:31pm
 
We just lost a sale this morning and I am compelled to post as this has happened before. Here's the deal: sometimes customers want to buy their beer warm, because they are traveling with it. Seems OK, right? I mean, you can buy beer in the store warm and not worry about that warm/cold/warm/cold back and forth skunking the beer, right? So we should TOTALLY sell beer to people warm if they want it, right? WRONG! Here's the truth, folks: all beer is bottled cold; it's how you get the carbonation to stay in solution! IF you buy warm beer it is simply beer that was once cold that got warm. So if you buy our beer cold and let it get warm, at least it was kept cold (i.e. in the most stable, freshness-keeping state) as long as possible. Letting it warm up in your car one time is no worse (and in fact a lot better) than buying it warm at some store. Yet this morning my hard-working staff were absolutely unable to convince a customer of this--he literally said he was going to drive 30 minutes to Beer Run in Charlottesville and buy Blue Mountain beer warm, for a couple dollars more per six-pack! What?!? Now, God bless the Beer Run guys and all our wonderful retailers but the fact is that if you buy our beer warm somewhere it is only warm because it was filtered cold, bottled cold, got loaded onto my distributor's truck where it warmed up a bit, sat in my distributor's warehouse for a few weeks where it warmed up a lot, got loaded on my distributor's truck (mid-August, anyone?) and then loaded onto a shelf at a store where it sat--wait for it!--WARM! 
 The kicker? Our distributor's delivery driver was out front overhearing this while he waited for us to finish a bottling run of the very beer the customer wanted! He laughed his ass off and told the guy, "Look, they're literally back there bottling this right now!" The fellow wanted to hear none of it. He wanted his beer warm. So if you're out there, buddy, congrats on the purchase of beer that was at least a month older than what you could have gotten today. And guess what...it was once cold too, like the beer you passed up this morning! Aaarrrgghhhh!
Our staff occasionally has a hard time convincing people of the simple logic that warm beer is simply cold beer that warmed up, and they ask me to just give in and keep some warm beer out for these hard-headed folks, but to our loyal Facebookers out there...y'all get why I won't give in to this ridiculous breech in logic, right?
Venting over. Signing off to enjoy one of the fresh, cold Full Nelson's I just bottled!  -Taylor

Year in Review...


440 posts in (just over) a year! When I first got started in this endeavor called "blogging", I thought it was an absurd idea that would probably fizzle out after a couple weeks like most people's New Year's Resolutions...


My initial goal was simply to put down in word form my thoughts about the brews that I sample so I would have a written record where I could return if I forgot if I had sampled a beer before. I have now documented in writing on this site over 500 of the 630+ beers I have archived over the years. Never in a million years did I think people would actually read these thoughts or actually comment on them!

My intent for this year is to catch up on those 130 archived beers I have notes on (hopefully sample some of them again) and expand my readership. This is where you guys come in!

If you read and enjoy the blog: SHARE IT!

There are several ways to do this:


  • Last but not least, tell people about the site!


Breckenridge 471 Small Batch Double Hopped IPA

I love when breweries do this! I will take a small batch beer straight from the brewmaster's brain over a hyped up line brew any day.

471 is the street number of the Breckenridge brewery, and these small batch beers are the side projects of Todd Usry. If they turn out well enough, and garner some feedback from brewery visits they get bottled. There is a quote on the bottle that says, "Oh Lordy, this is fun..." I can only imagine working at an awesome brewery like this!

Breckenridge 471 Small Batch Double Hopped IPA is a golden-orange color with a one-finger head of lacy, off-white foam. The aroma of this beer is very pungent of grass and straw, and the first sip is dry grapefruit and pineapple flavors with nice bitterness. Said bitterness lasts for about an hour in your mouth after you have finished drinking!

The mouthfeel of this beer is somewhat thick for the style - I actually enjoy the added texture. The alcohol content is nice and warming as well. It adds to the kick of the hops, and personally I think all super-hoppy brews should be super boozy as well!

I can't wait to find the other small batch varieties Breck brew is spitting out!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First Beer of 2011! - Delirium Noel


First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope everyone had a safe night full of horrible decisions that we will be reading about for the next few days, and may potentially lead to a comedic screenplay...

As a quickly-aging young man with a young daughter and a pregnant wife, my debauchery for the evening consisted of a night out at the Olive Garden (the Mixed Grill is THE SHIT). It concluded with a single craft beer in hand fighting sleep only to fail 15 minutes before the ball dropped...I believe this is the way Will Ferrel's character in Old School would have celebrated post-Bed Bath & Beyond trip, and pre-streaking incident. It's so good when it hits your lips!...

Speaking of, the beer I sampled this evening is from the Belgian brewery, Brouwerij Huyghe in Ghent, BE. This brewery is the renowned maker of the Delirium line, of the infamous flecked eggshell bottles. I figured it was about time to finally cough up the dough for one of these to check out what everyone is talking about, and what better time to splurge than during the holidays?

Delirium Noel is a 10% ABV, hazy auburn colored beer that pours to a HUGE four-finger head of off-white bubbles that fade quickly. It smells of raisins or figs and honey with that telltale spicy Belgian yeast. The first taste is very sweet with more fruit esters coming into play as the beer warms.

Dark malts add some body and complexity to this brew, and there are definitely some spices added to this holiday edition of the product. OK, OK - I finally get now what all the hype is about! This is a truly great brew.