Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!...and Sixpoint Autumnation

Well, I hope everyone out there is enjoying your costume parties, trick-or-treating with the kids or whatever other debauchery this night holds for you each year!

As for my night, well, unfortunately my daughter woke up with a fever of 101° this morning, so it consisted of watching Disney movies with her rather than going out door-to-door...but how do you explain to a 3-year-old that, no, it is not possible to, "Do Halloween tomorrow"?

The only saving grace was that my wife had made these awesome pumpkin & chocolate chip cupcakes with cinnamon and nutmeg buttercream frosting. They are amazing and I decided to pair one with a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - which of course just took it to the next level! One bite of the cupcake and the breed seemed to forget about not being able to go out with her cousins...

The Dogfish beer and cupcake also got me into the mood to sample another pumpkin brew I had sitting in the fridge, and its one from a new brewery to me.

Sixpoint Autumnation is a 6.7% ABV, 68 IBU, brilliant orange colored brew with a one-finger head of off-white fizz. The beer comes in a shiny silver full-pint can that has a stellar quote on the back: "Autumn wins you best by this, it's mute appeal to sympathy for decay".

 The brewery was established in Brooklyn, New York, and I have been hearing tons of good things about these guys that just opened in 2004.

The aroma is quite different than any other pumpkin beer I have sampled, it has a more herbal and hoppy smell than I was anticipating. At first sip, you notice the presence of the ginger that lightens the palate that is otherwise full-flavored. The pumpkin/yam meat is there, but is only a component in this truly original beer. I can tell already that I am going to be a HUGE Sixpoint fan!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Belgium 1554

Sunday was the last full day in Tennessee, so we spent part of the day in Gatlinburg, a small little town nestled in the Smoky Mountains.

The whole area down there (Pigeon Forge / Sevierville / Dollyworld / Gatlinburg) is WAY more trashy and touristy than I was expecting, but Gatlinburg was much less in-your-face then the rest of them.

The other thing Gatlinburg has going for it is that it houses the site of the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, arguably the fasting growing producer of spirits in the US. Their "Apple Pie", "White Lightning" and "Moonshine Cherries" are highly sought after and have been featured in numerous news programs and papers.

Of course with that being said, how pissed was I when we show up on Sunday and the sampling room and sales desk are both closed! Apparently, the "Holler" is not allowed to sell liquour on Sunday as Gatlinburg becomes a dry county...Dangit!

Well, it was still pretty cool to see where they make the stuff, and I wanted to just hang out back at the cabin on our last night there so we took off for home. I made dinner, and settled in to finish off the remainders of the sixer I had left.

New Belgium 1554 is a 5.6% ABV Belgian Black Ale that pours, well, black with a one finger head of off-white lacy foam. The beer has a unique story, in that the original 1997 recipe (found in a library) was lost in a Fort Collins flood, so the brewmaster traveled to Belgium to find it again in the original text. It dates back to 1554, thus the name!

The beer smells sweet of chocolate and caramel and a bit of coffee. The mouthfeel is relatively light compared to what it appears, and at first sip I get lots of different flavors. It starts with sweet milk chocolate, then you get notes of figs and raisins and finally the bitterness of java in the finish. I have to say this is my favorite New Belgium offering yet!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Depot Street Roundabout Rye Stout

A week ago, we spent most of the day shopping at the Tanger Outlets in Pigeon Forge, TN for Christmas presents and decided to take a break for lunch at Big Daddy's Pizzeria. 

The place had been highly recommended by my Brother-and-Sister-in-law who had been the year before, and they weren't kidding! The pizza was awesome, and I was really surprised to find local craft beer on the menu (they had left that part out of the suggestion).

I decided to order the Depot Street Roundabout Rye Stout from nearby Jonesborough, Tennessee. The brew was described as a, "Dry Irish-style Stout made with a touch of Rye Malt for a refreshing astringency which is easy on the palate".

The beer is a viscous black - absolutely no transparency - and arrived with no head to speak of. It smells of chocolate and roasted malts, and at first sip follows the nose pretty closely. 

Roundabout won a Gold Medal at the 2008 Carolinas Championship of Beer, and I can see why. The use of rye in the stout, even if just in a small amount adds a unique depth to the flavor of the beer. Already complex and thick, the added grain provides a bit of spice and richness that takes the beer to a new level. Its just too bad we didn't have time to stop by the brewery while we were there!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan

Switching over to the six-pack made up of odd-and-ends, the next brew I was excited to try while in Tennessee was from a brewery I hadn't yet discovered.

Less than ten years old, Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company touts itself as "Mississippi's Brewery". They don't distribute West of Louisiana, or further North East of Georgia, so I don't expect to see them again for some time. But I enjoyed it while I could!

Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan is a 4.39% ABV English Brown Ale that pours a deep mahogany color with a one-finger head of off-white foam. The beer is created with 3 different grains, but what makes this brew award-winning (it picked up a World Beer Cup Bronze in 2006) is the use of roasted pecans in the brewing process - the first beer in the world to incorporate them.

The beer smells very sweet, but there are obviously some underlying notes of maltiness and earth from the roasted nuts. The primary flavor is sweet caramel with a nice added dark texture that is balanced well by the hop additions. I was very impressed with this beer, and wish I had grabbed some more to bring home with me!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Belgium Snow Day Winter Ale

Where do the days go? I can't believe it has been almost three weeks sent I last posted a review!!!

Part of that was due to a family trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee this past weekend for my wife's birthday. A four-day weekend in the mountains in a sweet cabin with the weather chilled and the leaves speckled is EXACTLY what I needed to get refocused. If only the 4.5 hour trip hadn't turned into 7.5 hours each way with kids it would have all been perfect!

When we got into TN, the first stop was to the grocery store to stock up on supplies. Surprising to me, they had a make-your-own six pack section with some pretty good stuff. What I was most exited about, though, was the gleaming sixer from Fort Collins.

New Belgium Snow Day is a 6.2% ABV, dark brown winter ale that pours to a two-finger head of tan foam. The label features a cartoonish picture of the brewery under a large blanket of snow, and an additional sticker of the bottle explains that whenever the brewers get snowed-in they pack up gift boxes of glassware to ship out to fans!

The brew's aroma was shockingly hoppy for such a dark beer, and at first sip there is tons of caramel, chocolate, and I even get a light mint flavor in the finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this brew sitting in the hot tub on our deck at the cabin, even if we weren't in the midst of the 37" snowstorm that inspired the beer!

More on the trip to come!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

When a beer's label features a quote from a famous literary brain, you just know it has to be good!

This brew has a quote from Henry David Thoreau: "I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion."

As the days begin to get shorter and cooler, and the leaves start to change there are a few things you can count on: there are football games on TV, ladies start to (unfortunately) cover up, and pumpkin beers start to pop up all over the place.

Tonight I am drinking Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, an 8% ABV, light-brown/amber beer that pours to a two-finger head of thick, dense, off-white foam. And what an ale this is! The beer is far-and-away the best pumpkin brew I have ever sampled - even soundly thrashing my previous favorite, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin.

Once opened, the beer smells INTENSELY of pure spice: nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. At first sip, I am absolutely overwhelmed by the flavor profile and depth. The spices are prominent, but the beer is solid all the way through. The malt base is sweet and provides a full-body, the pumpkin squash meat adds the distinct boost that makes these brews so unique, and their is even some vanilla bean in the dark corners of the beer.

The part that really got me thinking, though, was the high alcohol content...the warmth factor is what sets my favorite fall beers apart from the others. Both the Schlafly and the Weyerbacher weigh in at 8%, way above most of the other pumpkins I have sampled - and it shows!

I loved this beer, and may actually inquire about ordering a case to enjoy and save some of them to age for next year. Another great brew from this small brewery in St. Louis, that has been handcrafting 50 styles of beer each year since 1991!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Craft Beer #1,000! - Dogfish Head Pangaea

Approximate to the bottles left in my wake over
the past few years...Although far less green
bottles  and certainly not on the road!
I actually sampled my 1,000th craft beer a week ago, but a tough week at work and our internet being out at home hasn't allowed me a chance to write it up here we go!

When I started this blog, it was initially to record and keep up with the beers I had sampled. It has since evolved and transformed into more of a collaboration between beer-lovers, with comments, recommendations and stories from you - the readers - about the explosion of development in the culture of craft beer. 

Due to the new nature of the site, I ask you to join with me to celebrate the past (almost) two years and look forward to the promotion of many more fine beers in the future! I also ask for your help in this promotion, by sharing Stay Thirsty with friends and colleagues, providing feedback on the site, and commenting with your own interpretations of these small, liquid "art forms" we call craft beer.

To celebrate the arrival of this milestone, I wanted to pick out a special beer - not one that couldn't be topped, I'm not stopping at this point after all! - but one that held some significance and was somewhat rare. The one I decided on was from Dogfish Head, one of my favorite breweries, and also one of the most outspoken and passionate about the growth of craft beer in the United States. The beer is also over a year old based on the label's recommendation - "Ages with the best of  'em".

Dogfish Head Pangaea is a 7% ABV, beautiful golden-copper colored beer that pours to a one-finger head of off-white, fluffy foam.

The beer stands out to me for several reasons: First, it was created to bring the world together (even if just for a beer) in terms of a collaboration of ingredients and ideas. Second, it has a story and history - the inspiration was the historic landmass of the same name, where we all shared common ancestry - call it a "family tree of beer" if you will...and finally, the rareness of the beer: Produced in very limited quantities, Pangaea incorporates ingredients from all 7 continents in its production, including crystalized ginger from Australia, water from iceberg chips in Antartica (procured from a US military base down there), Basmati rice from Asia, Muscavado sugar from Africa, South American quinoa (a grain-like crop used as a malt), European yeast, and North American maize.

In terms of aroma and taste, the beer smells very sweet, fruity and acidic of citrus, and at first sip is intensely flavorful, despite its aging. The most prominent flavor is the earthy and spicy ginger, which creates a very crisp palate for the other flavors to build on. The presence of the rice, maize and quinoa provide a malt experience unlike I have ever tasted - it is very light in texture and simply adds to the sweetness of the ginger and Muscavado. A very dry finish lends to a strong residual taste of ginger and a bit of honey on your tongue.

This was a very tasty beer, and a perfect way to transition into the next millenium of beers! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

#1 - Steigl Goldbrau Premium Lager

Tonight this moment is bittersweet...

I am sitting down to drink craft beer number 999, but my Virginia Tech Hokies were just soundly thrashed AT HOME 23-3 by the visiting Clemson Tigers.

What a poor ending to very nice day! I was able to spend the day with the family out at the unfortunately -named Flippin-Seaman Apple Orchard for their Fall Festival.

We had a great day and the weather was perfect for picking pumpkins, visiting with clowns, pony rides and the like. I brought home some of their fresh-made and still hot apple butter, and a bushel of their delicious Fuji apples, but none of that will wash the current bitter taste away...

Hopefully this big-ass can will help me drown my sorrows and cheer me up for tomorrow and number 1,000!

And what a sweet can it is - Look at this thing! It looks like it is about 40 years old and has been buried in my backyard in a time capsule or something.

Steigl Goldbrau Premuim Lager has been made in Salzburg, Austria in the largest, privately-owned brewery in the country since 1492.

The beer pours a brilliantly clear gold color with a one-finger white head of foam, and smells very light and slightly skunky like most European pilsners and lagers. Obviously mildly-hopped and using lighter malts, there isn't a tremendous amount of flavor coming off of this beer, but enough biscuity malt and crispness to go down easy.

The allure of the can was just too much to continue to pass by this beer! Glad I tried it, but probably won't be grabbing another one anytime soon.