Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year! & Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager

It's been almost a week since I posted, and what a whirlwind! Four Christmas', returning and swapping out presents, a couple days of work, two birthday parties and one day spent hanging out with my brother who was in town - I'm wiped out!

But of course I'm gonna stay up like an idiot just to watch the crazy Red Bull guys do their thing...

To keep me company tonight I am going to crack open one of the last Christmas brews I have remaining in the beer fridge.

Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager is a 9% ABV, clear, bright copper colored brew with a one-finger head of off-white, glossy foam. The beer's painted-on label features a devilish-looking monster on a green background with holly and berries.

Until a week ago, I had never even heard of Krampus before...Yeah, I knew of the beer - but I just thought it was a cool name! So anyway, I was sitting there watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Christmas Special on the Travel Channel (Anthony, if you're reading this I'm a huge fan! - but watch out, I'm coming for your job...), and he was talking to an Austrian chef that explained the mythology behind the fanged, goat-horned evil sidekick to St. Nicholas that serves as the enforcer of "The List". This creepy monster uses sticks and chains to beat naughty children and stuffs them in a sack to carry them away!

Looks like Daddy has a new story to scare the kiddos with to make them behave...Forget that cute little "Elf on the Shelf" toy, nothing works quite like fear and intimidation!

Back to the beer, this monster smells surprisingly of aromatic hops - both spicy and piney. First sip and get even more hops! Sticky and resinous with a fantastic dry finish, I wouldn't normally call this a Christmas beer, but it is perfect for tonight!

Cheers to all the beer lovers out there - May 2012 bring you happiness, good times and lots of good beer!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! & Anchor Our Special Ale 2011

I hope everyone out there is having an awesome Christmas, and getting everything you asked Santa for!

One of the things I asked for (not really, but it has been on my beer wishlist since 2006!) and finally got was this beer! I have searched high-and-low for this one over the years, and I swear every time I call around they either just sold the last bottle, their "promised" case never came in or something went wrong in the distribution from San Francisco...Kind of ironic that when I finally locate it, this bottle cost me less than $2!

So let's see what I have been missing out on for so long...

Anchor Our Special Ale 2011 is the 37th release of their famous Christmas ale put out from November-January each year. The recipe is different every year, and this batch pours to a mahogany/ruby with dark browns and a three-finger head of beige lace and rocky foam.

The beer is made for the, "joy and celebration of the newness of life", and bears a tree on the front of the label which, "symbolizes the winter solstice when the Earth, with its seasons, appears born anew." Ummm...ok. Whatever.

The brew smells spicy and sweet of maple syrup, and the first sip is filled with cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate malt. It was definitely worth the wait for this one, as the roasted barley comes forward and then toasted oats are present on your tongue. This is a very intriguing beer with those spices coming in and out of play and brown sugar and the maple adding some earthiness to the constant sweetness. A great, medium-bodied mouthfeel rounds out this fantastic beverage!

Everything said and done, this is just a stupid beer blog - remember the true Reason for the Season!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale 2011-2012

Christmas Eve begins the holiday madness for my family every year, as we always go to my grandparents' house to celebrate with my Dad's side. 

As expected, my 7-month-old was the focus of attention all day (as any new baby always is) being handed off from family member to family member. That meant no nap for him, so he is over-exhausted and won't sleep tonight - he is literally screaming as I type this, so with constant interruptions to calm him down it is taking FOREVER to write this post!

Tomorrow will be even more insane with our own Christmas morning, followed by trips to both sets of parents (the kids' grandparents) in the same day. I am wiped out right now and still have toys to assemble before I hit the sack...

For this brief reprieve, I am drinking Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale 2011-2012, a 6% ABV, golden-amber colored brew that pours to a two-finger head of small, off-white bubbles. The beer's label features a vintage-style drawing of a bartender behind the bar in a traditional English pub, and on the back has a picture of the brewery's horses that are still used to this day to take out beer deliveries 5 days a week!

I'm not sure what it is about the magic of open fermentation in their "Yorkshire squares", but SS brews have an incredibly smooth and creamy texture to them. This beer smells a bit musty, with notes of pecans and sweet fruit esters. At first sip, there are buttery, biscuity flavors followed by a little spice and some figs or dates (or both!). This is a malt-heavy beverage, and the richness is perfect for the night before Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

21st Amendment/Ninkasi Collaboration - Allies Win the War!

First day finally off of work and as expected it was spent running all over town!

Historically that first day of vacation is reserved for my "chores", running errands that can't be done after work and are at this point probably long overdue.

Then, I couldn't even come home to relax after all that exhaustion because we had dinner plans with my parents and Aunt & Uncle who were visiting from out of town. It's still three days from Christmas and the holiday family-shuffle begins!

Now I am settling in to watch the pre-recorded Chelsea vs. Tottenham match from earlier today, hopeful that my Blues can make up a few points on the Manchester clubs.

I am also drinking the 21st Amendment/Ninkasi Collaboration - Allies Win the War!. This canned brew is an 8.5% ABV, 52 IBUs ale brewed with dates. I have sampled several beers from 21st Amendment before, but this is my first contact with suds from Ninkasi - a brewery in Eugene, Oregon.

I thought it was cool that both breweries involved in making this beer brought ingredients indigenous to their locale to the table in its creation. The guys from San Francisco decided to make something unique by incorporating California dates, and the Oregonites chocked the beer full of Northwestern hops.

For those of you that have never had California dates, you are really missing out! They are not unlike a raisin, but they are somewhat sweeter with a nuttier flavor and a meatier texture. They bring back some great memories for me because they were a great treat that my siblings and I looked forward to when we would visit my grandparents in SoCal.

Another thing that catches my attention is a picture on the can...It is a world-famous photograph of a World War II wartime meeting between Winston Churchill, FDR and Joseph Stalin (the "Big Three") at the Yalta Conference, except the faces have been replaced by brewers from the two companies. As a history buff enamored by all things WWII related, it was a cool nod along with the newspaper-esque can, and their previous release - Fireside Chat.

This beer pours a dark mahogany color, clear with a two-finger head of off-white lace. It smells piney of those unmistakable Oregon hops and the first sip starts bitter and slowly warms into fruity sweetness. This is a great beer for the season, when you see a lot of brews made with figs, dates, plums, currants and other tree fruits. However, it is the sturdy hop presence that really sets it apart!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale - Brown Shugga' Substitute

I feel like Ron Livingston in Office Space right now...

There is nothing I hate worse than thinking that I am done with work and I'm getting ready to begin a vacation, just to find out I will have to come back in for something the next day.

I can just hear Bill Lumbergh in my ear now, "Umm, yeaaah, I'm gonna need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow..."

Fortunately, my job is enjoyable and no longer resembles anything like this! I guess the upside of having to go in is that I still have a bunch of Christmas presents to get for the fam and this will get me out of the house to finish up without them around...

But that is tomorrow, tonight I am sitting down with a beer I am pretty excited about because the craft beer world is buzzing about it. The craft brew industry is unlike most others because when there is hype about a product, usually it is for a legitimate reason. This is a departure from fashion, film or even food, where trend-setters and celebrities determine the new style or what is interesting. Beer lovers can separate the spectacular from the $#*%!

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale is a 7.85% ABV, "Cereal Medley" made up of barley, rye, wheat and oats along with generous hop additions to the boil, and in dry-hopping. This brew was made as a substitute to their normal winter seasonal, Brown Shugga', because they didn't have the brewing capacity to pump it out. I say good riddance!

I wasn't a huge fan of that beer, but this one is an entirely different story! The brew pours a clear gold with a nearly-white head of dense foam, two-fingers high. It smells pungently of spicy, floral hops.

The first sip is lightly bitter, buttery, citrusy and sweet - a lot going on! Mouth-watering, sticky hop flavors are there, but without the killer acidic bitterness. It weighs in at "only" 63 IBUs - perfectly balanced with all those malts in my opinion - and has just the right warming presence for this time of year.

I can certainly see what all the fuss is about - I LOVED this beer. Go get some!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Great Weekends in Craft Beer...Episode 2

Another weekend in the books, and another three nights of sampling some excellent new brews!

Friday night after that fantastic work lunch I was definitely in the mood to drink some of the new beers that I picked up at Ned's.

After dinner out I sat down to try another brew from Ft. Collins, New Belgium Belgo Belgian Style IPA. This 7% ABV brew pours a hazy goldenrod color with a one-finger head of white lace, and the beer's label is adorned with a disco ball on a brown background.

It smells citrusy and spicy, and the first sip is full of lemon, coriander and clove. Following the initial spices the bitterness and grapefruit flavors come in from the hops. The use of Belgian yeast is obvious with fruit and spicy notes, and this beer gets even better as it warms and some of the flavors continue to develop.

The second beer of the night was a style that I have really been enjoying lately. Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter is a 5.8% ABV brew that is created with chocolate malt, midnight wheat and Honduras Macala coffee from Dynamite Roasting Co. in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

The beer pours jet black with a one-finger head of tan foam, and smells of fresh java and chocolate. The first sip is like a mocha frappuccino - the coffee is very powerful and I didn't know if I was going to sleep at all that night! There is also a bit of fruit in the middle, which was surprising, and then a good dry finish with some bitterness.

On Saturday my wife took the kids to my in-laws' house to make Christmas cookies and to hang out with the grandparents, so Dick and I got together to play some Modern Warfare 3 and drink some brews.

We started with a beer that I had seen in his fridge before, but honestly had no idea what style it was...I still don't really! Rogue Captain Sig's Northwestern Ale is described on their website as a, "India Red Ale", and pours a very cloudy amber color with a two-finger head of dense, off-white foam. As with most Rogue brews the ABV is not listed...

The beer smells of chocolate and barley, but at first sip is incredibly bitter with tons of resinous, piney hop flavor. After checking out the details online I see why - this thing weighs in at 80 IBUs! Despite the heavy hand of Northwestern hop flowers, this brew is actually pretty well balanced after that first taste. The hop presence calms down and the malts really begin to take shape.

Now with my hop-fiend side unleashed, I thought it might finally be time to pull out something special. This brew has been aging for about a year-and-a-half in the bottle, and was aged on French and American Oak before that!

Great Divide 16th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA is a 10% ABV, copper hued beer that pours to a two-finger head of tan, lacy foam. This celebration beer is based on their Denver Pale Ale (DPA), and to me the ale smells like an Andes after dinner mint!

At first sip the beer is smooth like velvet...I LOVE any beer aged on oak! I still get the crisp, cooling flavor of mint - I'm not sure what that is coming from - but this beer is awesome! Sweet malts, biting and bitter hops and smooth vanilla from the oak - yum!

To really finish scratching that hoppy itch, we decided to round out with one more IPA before switching to another style.

Next up was Troegs Perpetual IPA, an Imperial Pale Ale that comes in at 7.5% ABV and pours a cloudy but light-orange color with a very lacy one-finger white head.

This beer smells very citrusy and floral, but in actuality it is really NOT incredibly spicy or bitter. I was expecting something more along the lines of a 60- or 90-Minute from Dogfish Head based on the name...The full, leafy hop flavors are there, but the dry-hopping must have been so intense that after the aroma the flavor kind of falls flat. Good beer, but I felt deceived!

Finally, the last beer of the day...I know we are slightly past the prime of pumpkin brew season, so we decided to pop this one open because we didn't know how it would age.

Epic & DC Brau Fermentation Without Representation - Imperial Pumpkin Porter is a 7.3% ABV collaboration between the breweries in Utah and the District of Columbia. The beer pours black with a one-finger head of tan, lacy foam.

Something kind of cool caught my eye on the label, I saw a stamp on the side that said, "Release #1". Well my mind immediately jumped to, "We got the first bottle off of the line! Awesome!" After giving it a minute to sink in, and then looking it up on their website, that stamp actually was referring to the batch number and not the bottle number...But it was still cool to know that ours was the first release bottled on October 17th, 2011, and to read beside the stamp where it explained that only a few thousand bottles were released and we were able to grab one!

The beer itself smells of chocolate, pumpkin meat and nutmeg, and has a great roasted barley taste with a little smokiness in the finish. I hope these two get together for another joint venture in the future!

Then we had yesterday/last night's brews...Watching football all day can really take it out of you, you know? These libations helped me get through the ulcer-inducing games that threatened to screw my fantasy football season:

Newcastle Winter IPA - I am a big fan of the original Brown Ale, and I like seeing already established brands try to hang on to/increase market share by taking a risk on something new. I HATE complacency (as I sit on my butt on the couch all day...), so kudos to these Brits for stepping out.

The beer is a light copper color with a one-finger head of tan foam. It smells a bit musty, but not unpleasant, and the first sip is very nutty with a thicker mouthfeel. There is some light hoppiness but nothing that would lead me to define this brew as an IPA! However, it is as smooth as the original and well balanced enough to drink several. I would compare it to a Newcastle Brown crossed with a Boston Lager...

Schlafly Winter ESB is a 5.8% ABV, amber colored brew that pours to a two-finger head of white, lacy foam. Bottled on 11/9/2011, the beer smells of caramel and citrus (lemon).

And now I am completely confused...The last beer was an IPA and was sweet, and this is an ESB and is actually quite hoppy! The first sip is very grassy, lemony and spicy until the malt backbone kicks in. Caramel sweetness is there to help balance, and rye adds some depth to the flavors - but no winter spices to speak of...What makes this a winter ale? Doesn't matter, it's good!

Last, but not least, is Bison Gingerbread Ale, a 6% ABV beer brewed with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. The brew is technically a "Spiced Holiday Porter", and it pours a deep mahogany color with a two-finger tan head of lacy foam.

I only get a light aroma of gingerbread with this beer - it is primarily roasted barley that I am smelling. The first sip is definitely unique...the ginger really lightens-up the palate of the otherwise thick porter. The nutmeg and cinnamon are also there, but I appreciate how understated they are - it really allows you to enjoy the beer for the true style. I was actually pretty worried this was going to be a gimmick beer, but that is not the case!

Yet another great weekend of brews, and after tomorrow I will be off of work for the rest of the year. Expect a lot of great new posts!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dick Celebrates Craft Beer #1,000! - Ommegang Adoration

Earlier this week I mentioned that my friend Dick and I had gotten together last weekend to celebrate his 1,000th craft beer. 

The lazy @$$hole just now got around to getting me his review of that beer, so instead of a pat on the back, he gets an, "it's about damn time!".

Haha, just kidding buddy - take it away...

Bear with me as I reminisce about my humble beginnings of drinking craft beer (don’t worry, there is a point)…

Once upon a time Matt, Tom, and Dick worked together in the small “Firm” in Virginia. They decided, one uneventful evening, to get together, play Texas Hold ‘Em, and watch “Anchorman”, to drown their sorrows after an awful work week (this is how the best stories always start).

They were all fairly new to the craft beer scene, so they began this specific night with mixed drinks (nothing with umbrellas) and eventually moved to Miller Lite (not craft) and Red Stripe (not really craft, but a move in the right direction). 

This night would begin a lasting friendship forged with good times, good memories, and mediocre suds! 

Within a few weeks Dick began to hear Matt talk about a local craft beer store in town named Vine’s (now out of business). Matt invited Dick to join him for a beer run to Vine’s. Dick was still unsure about his true passion for beer (please understand that Dick is a little slow).  

That first six-pack was exciting, but fairly uninspiring. 

Sometime later Dick had Matt decided to try a local hole-in-the-wall, Rivermont Pizza, after playing a round of golf. They arrived later in the afternoon to find that the restaurant closes early to clean up for the evening crowd.  After deciding to take a stroll to another small deli, Magnolia Foods, Dick proclaims (in a very high-pitched girly voice), “When is our small town going to get a real beer store?” Both Dick and Matt looked to their left and noticed a bright, white sign (I swear it had a glowing hue around it) for “Ned’s Beer and Wine”. The timing of this gem was impeccable! It was sitting there like a centennial hop among thorns! After spending a nearly a week’s gross pay, Dick walked into the sunset with his first, real passion for craft brew! 

Fast-forward 994 beers later to last weekend. It was time to select Dick’s 1,000th beer!  The stage was set and it was time to choose. The anticipation had built to a level rivaling that of a 12-year-old awaiting the release of Modern Warfare 3! In order to celebrate this momentous occasion, Dick wanted to select a beer that culminated a milestone in a single word, “Adoration”. Adoration?!?!? Well, adoration means, “the act of paying honor, as to a divine being, worship; reverent homage; fervent and devoted love” ( Dick could not have said it better himself!

Ommegang Adoration is a 10% ABV Belgian Strong Ale (a lot different than Dick’s humble beginnings of Miller Lite and Red Stripe), that is listed on the label as a “Special Winter Ale”. Dick has aged this beer for over a year, since its release from mid-October through December 2010.  The bottle proclaims that this is best served in front of a roaring fire (see picture).  

This brew poured a dark hazy red with a 2-3 finger light brown head. Adoration was brewed with Grains of Paradise (see Sam Adams’ Summer Ale), mace, clove, dark fruit (definitely raisins and fig), and orange zest. This was a very fruity, yet spicy beer that I would have to say probably aged well!  This brew had a full-body, lingered for days, and ended with a dry finish. This brew encapsulated the past 999 brews before it. It reminded me of all four seasons, lots of spices that I had tried before, fruit, and alcohol (all which make a wonderful beer)! This beer also shows the progression that I have made with my palate and launches Dick to 1,000 more!

And remember, “Love acknowledges others’ flaws. Adoration accepts them.”


Dick gives this beer 4.2 kegs out of 5 for taste, but 5 kegs for remembrance!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Brooklyn Monster Barleywine 2011

It's Fridaaaay!...And that means it is time for our annual staff "get together" for a last hurrah before we break for Christmas. It also means I get to drink craft beer on the company's dime!

I usually get the task of picking where we go to eat and celebrate, so I often am able to select somewhere with a well-put together tap list.

Today's selection was the now-famous Rivermont Pizza, one of my favorite hideaways in town but one that is gaining popularity - much to my displeasure. It also just happens to be home to Ned's Beer & Wine, one of my primary go-to's for great beer hauls.

As always, it didn't disappoint! The food was fantastic, the beer selection wide and varied, and Ashby from Ned's was looking out for me - he saved me a bottle of the new Dogfish Head release, Pearl Jam 20 Faithful Ale and some other goodies!

That will be a future review, but my new sample with lunch was a Brooklyn Monster Barleywine (2011). This 10.3% ABV brew pours a bright copper color with a small white head straight from the tap (great, more room for beer!).

The beer smells fruity and hoppy, both with notes of citrus, and at first sip is very syrupy and thick. It starts with a complex spicy and fruit-filled palate, and the middle rounds out with buttery caramel flavors. The finish cascades with a dry, heavy burn of alcohol that the brewery calls, "spiritous" - I'll say! Still, a very good beer at a very good restaurant.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sixpoint Diesel

Finally, an uneventful day at work and home! I would say I am relaxing, but there is no such thing during this time of year.

The past couple night have been eaten up by my office Christmas party and my wife's hair appointment - is it really necessary for that to take 3 hours?! If I was a little less-confident in my bedroom skills I might be suspicious...You would think if they could work a little faster they could get more clients done and make some extra cash!

Tonight I am drinking out of a big black can. The name of this beer reminds me of a trip I took in high school to Kazakstan, but that is a whole other story and a flood of memories that I would rather not conjure up right now...

Sixpoint Diesel is a 6.3% ABV, 69 IBU brew that will remain style-less as the brewery has decided not to restrict their beers by labeling them. The beer pours black in color with ruby accents, and maintains a one-finger head of tan, very lacy foam.

The brew smells like a chocolate stout, but there is also significant hop bitterness in the aroma. The first sip is nice and smoky, malty and thick with plenty of hops to go around - enough that I would even venture to call this a black IPA.

This is a really incredible beer. I love it, and Sixpoint is making a huge statement to me with awesome beer in big cans!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Left Hand Fade to Black Vol. 3 Pepper Porter

I absolutely love the specialty beers that come out this time of year. There are only so many different varieties of hops you can mix-and-match to change up an IPA or pale ale, wheat brews get old quick in the summer, pumpkin ales are cool for about a month, etc.

But when you vary malts and spices you can really start to get creative! This brewery has a history of thinking outside of the box, with beers like Smokejumper (a Smoked Imperial Porter) and TNT ( a Weizen Doppelbock).

Left Hand Fade to Black Vol. 3 - Pepper Porter takes the cake in the R & D department...weighing in at 7.2% ABV, this beer was brewed with Chocolate and Rauch malts for an incredible base, and then spicy chilis are added for a unique twist.

The brew pours a deep mahogany color with a one-finger tan head of foam. Aroma after opening is primarily chocolate, but there are some intriguing spicy smells wafting in and out. First sip is smooth, creamy chocolate and java - nice and thick mouthfeel. Then the pepper hits the back of your throat like acid! I almost choke because I am not expecting so much flavor to be present...I am a HUGE fan of spicy foods, so I am LOVING this beer but I can see where some less appreciative consumers would be turned off to it. If you try this beer and don't like it, re-cap and send it to me! I will certainly be picking up SEVERAL more bottles for the future...

I have had brews infused with chilis before, some to good effect (New Holland Mole Ocho, Rogue Chipotle) and some not so much (Cave Creek Chili Beer). In this situation the brewers use them IMPECCABLY to enhance an already amazing beer. Go get some!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Great Weekends in Craft Beer...Episode 1

I mention on the site pretty regularly that I am quite a few beers behind in terms of my reviews...Stuff comes up, work gets crazy, or I just have an EPIC sampling session where I rack up more brews than I can write about in a week.

In an effort to try to offer my posts in a more real-time approach, I am going to experiment with multi-review posts following these mini beer-fests. That way you guys can see what I'm drinking - when I'm drinking it, instead of reading my notes from a few weeks (or months) ago. Let me know what you think!

Last night was a prime example of one of these celebrations of great beer! We met Dick and his wife out for dinner and they came back to our house afterwards to hang out. He informed me that he was close on my heels   to follow in the 1,000 Original Craft Beers Club (no, that is not a real organization - but it should be!), and that if we sampled 6 brews that night he would also reach the milestone. So, of course, I said, "Let's get crackin'!"

We started with Lagunitas Pils - you all know, not my favorite style, but it actually turned out to be pretty decent! This 6.2% ABV, blonde beauty was very flavorful, considering, with floral and buttery notes that held their own against my discriminating tastebuds. It probably helps that this is a Czech-style pilsner...They know their beer around those parts - per capita the Czechs drink more beer than any other country in the world!

Next up was a somewhat local beer...Queen City Brewing Company is located in Staunton, Virginia, and is a bit of an eccentric place from what I am told. Dick brought back a sixer from his travels there and explained that the microbrewery is a Brew-on-Premise location...What that translates to is what you are sampling could be a glorified homebrew batch!

Customers can choose from 60 recipes on-site, or bring their own; purchase ingredients and brew the batch right at the store. It  is then force-carbonated (BIG turn off for me) and bottled for you to take home or for the brewery to sell (not on consignment, for THEIR profit).

Last night we tried the Queen City Brass Rabbit IPA. The brew poured a dark amber/copper color with a LARGE 2-3 finger head of dense, off-white foam. I have to say that the beer had a lot of potential, but there were just too many things glaringly wrong...

Brewer's Best caps...Really!?

Incredibly malty with a taste of overcooked caramel, there was a
super-sweet, cotton candy finish. I neither smelled nor tasted anything even remotely resembling hops - a blasphemy against IPAs everywhere. Rounding out the errors was the extreme fizzy texture due to force-carbonation...This one was a dud!

We quickly moved on to the next brew, Wychwood King Goblin. I was pretty excited about this as I enjoy most English ales, and I had already sampled their Hobgoblin and Wychcraft Blonde.

This beer is only brewed on a full moon, and the allure is enhanced when you smell it for the first time! Sweet fruits and chocolate are very present in the aroma of this copper colored beer that pours to a two-finger head of off-white foam. The taste follows the nose, and the texture is somewhat thick - just right for me!

I have mentioned my displeasure at the fact that Great Divide Brewing Co. is no longer going to distribute to Virginia, so beer #4 is one of the last beers coming our way from their facility in Denver.

Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale is a 6.1% ABV, 55 IBU beer brewed with fresh, whole-cone hops from the Pacific Northwest. The brew pours bronze with a two-finger head of off-white lace and smells of grassy and citrus hops. It tastes like them too! This is a really great beer, and it was bottled on my wife's birthday - less than two months ago!

Then came another treat brought back from Indiana from my coworker. Crown Brewing Milk Chocolate Stout - in growler form! According to their website, twenty pounds of local Crown Point chocolate is added to the boil of this beer, and then cocoa nibs are added to the serving tank. It definitely shows - this is one chocolatey beer!

It pours an inky black with a one-finger head of tan lace, and smells bold of chocolate and coffee. The first sip is sweet and creamy from the lactose sugar, and it makes the brew taste like a mocha espresso. At 5.8% ABV it is no slouch, and with all of the chocolate, java and hop flavors in the dry finish by the time we polished off this bottle we were pretty excited to finally get to the main event...

But I will let Dick write about his #1,000...Keep an eye out for a guest review in the near future!

Ah, but the night didn't end there! Just as I followed my 1,000th craft beer with something special to kick off the next millennium of brews, I convinced him that we had to get started right on his second set.

Enter, Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine. As recommended, we had been hanging on to this beer for over a year (since 11/15/10 to be exact!) and I was anxious to see how it matured. At 15% ABV, it may not have been the best beer to end the night with, or maybe it was the perfect nightcap - depends on how you look at it!

Caution...Awesome beer ahead!

The beer poured a hazy amber color with a one-finger head of off-white foam. It smells lightly of bubblegum and citrusy hop flowers...Oh, and TONS of alcohol. Like enough in their to make you blind, or potentially sterile...

At first sip, I was actually kind of startled by the flavors that showed up. Nothing like the nose, I got tree fruits like dates and apples mixed with raisins and some nuttiness in the middle. A little research proved my palate is better than I initially thought, as dates and figs are pureed and used during the brewing process. This beer has easily introduced itself into my top 10 of all time, and I will be purchasing a case soon to open one beer a year until I run out!

So, as you can see, an awesome night of celebrating, and a splitting headache to follow - but well worth it! Thanks to Dick for bringing over several of these beers, and congrats on making the club (again, not real). Cheers to the next 1,000!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Soooo....tonight sucked! My huge new TV just made the ACC Championship defeat of my Hokies that much more glaring and miserable. Apparently Clemson just has our number this year...

To drown my sorrows I am cracking open a big beer that I should have probably sampled a few months ago. Printed right on the side is the bottling date, "August 2011" and in bold beneath it reads, "Enjoy Fresh". FML

However, if this bottle is past its prime I simply can't imagine what it COULD have tasted like!

Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA is a 10.8% ABV monster of a beer that pours black with a two-finger dense head of cinnamon colored foam. Reading the back of the bottle I feel like I have unearthed a long-hidden revolutionary manuscript from Patrick Henry! I get the whole analogy about craft beer being a coup d'etat against the establishment, but at some point we have to remember we are just talking about a drink...

I just popped the top on this bomber, and HOLY DRY-HOPPING, BATMAN! This beer punches you in the face with a pungent, piney and citrus hop aroma followed by some chocolate and black pepper. The first sip is almost meaty it is so thick!

The alcohol is masked well, which always scares me...The flavor is SO good, though! Spicy hops and dark roasty malts dominate the palate of this beer. I love this style, as it melds the extreme bitterness of an IPA with the thicker, more prominent textures of dark ales.

What a great beer to celebrate an anniversary! Happy 15th Stone Brewing Co.!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Founders Backwoods Bastard

It's Satuday, and I am being a bum spending my day on the couch alternating between watching soccer and the college football conference championships...

Chelsea looks like they are finally getting back to form, hammering Newcastle 3-0 and looking like the score should have been double that.

LSU looks like they are storming back against Georgia after a rough start - although I would really like to see them lose! Hopefully the Hokies can pull out the W tonight and make it 4 ACC titles in 5 years,

In the midst of my laziness I am getting ready to sample a brew that I have searched a couple of years for, and finally located.

Founders Backwoods Bastard is a 10.2% ABV, 50 IBU behemoth of a beer, aged in oak bourbon barrels. This brew smells like it was distilled rather than brewed!

The beer pours a dark copper color with a thin, off-white head of lace. The first sip is sweet fruit and toffee - it almost has a subtle taste of caramel apples! This is definitely a sipping beer...warm alcohol is noticeable all the while, but this brew is SMOOTH! You can taste the charred oak and the bourbon just adds to the awesome complexity of flavors.

This is one fantastic beer!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sierra Nevada Celebration 2011

Tonight I am just getting back from helping my father-in-law pick up and install his new TV - a Sharp 70" LED , wifi internet-ready with Bose surround sound...yeah, I'm jealous!

HOWEVER, guess who is bringing home his old (only 4 years!) Sony Wega LCD, just in time for the Chelsea vs. Newcastle United match tomorrow and (more importantly) the ACC Championship rematch between Virginia Tech and Clemson?!

Love me some House!
So, now that I have finished setting up my upgrade from 50" to 55", I am sitting down to catch up on some of my recorded programming that I haven't had time to watch during the week.

Also, I will enjoying one of my favorite holiday brews...

Sierra Nevada Celebration 2011 is a 6.8% ABV, winter IPA that pours a bright amber color with a humongous, three-finger rocky head of off-white lacy foam. The label features a snowy scene with a comfy log cabin and fir trees outlined by holly and poinsettias.

Originally, this beer was created in 1981 and it has become highly sought after each year as a unique winter ale "celebrating" the use of the first hops from the year's growing season.

The brew smells strongly of citrus and floral notes due to the generous addition of American hops in the dry-hopping process. At first sip there is an amazing mix of sweetness and bitterness, and bold, rich flavors leading this beer to be one of my continual favorites each holiday season!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crown Brewing Winter Warlock

Sitting here watching last night's taped episode of The Ultimate Fighter after an eventful evening...

One of my best friends that I graduated high school with moved back to town after 10 years being gone, and we got to have him over for dinner tonight. It was good to catch up with my buddy and know that he is back in town for a while.

Then, while that was going on a coworker and his roommate came over to look at some furniture I have been trying to sell. This is the same guy that has brought me brews from his trips home to Indiana, and he didn't fail to disappoint this time!

Crown Brewing Winter Warlock is an 8% ABV brew that pours a dark brown/mahogany color with a two-finger head of off-white foam. The label features a ghoulish white figure walking through snow below the Crown logo.

The beer itself smells sweet and sugary, but at first sip the maltiness really stands out. Despite being brewed with maple syrup and honey, the beer is quite earthy from roasted barley. I get some nutmeg and clove that is similar to some pumpkin brews I have sampled, and the maple syrup comes across more woody than sweet. Overall, it was a very good beer and one that I was fortunate to have as a result of my coworker's generosity!